The Washington Post has an article on depression among survivors of hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans a year and a half ago. The article is unclear whether the depression is endogenous and chronic, or exogenous, a product of continuing situational factors. Nevertheless the incidence of depression symptoms and self destructive behaviors have increased.
Between March 2006 — six months after the storm — and summer 2007, the number of people reporting signs of serious mental illness, rose from 11 percent to 14 percent. Before the storm it had been about 6 percent.
Similarly, the number of people who reported thoughts of suicide rose from 3 to 8 percent in New Orleans.
“There’s more depression, more financial problems, more marital conflict, more thoughts of suicide,” said Daphne Glindmeyer, a New Orleans psychiatrist who is president of the Louisiana Psychiatric Medicine Association. “And a lot of it is in people who never had any trouble before.”
Note the title of that organization—Louisiana Psychiatric Medicine Association. By definition, psychiatry is medicine. Strange.
One of the features of the article is the idea that victims of the storm want to get things back to how they were before the storm. That made me think of my response to finishing chemotherapy when I had cancer. I was in treatment in a city distant from my home, although I was with friends and in a familiar place. After treatment, I couldn’t wait to get back to my home. When I did get there, I fell into a deep depression. How could that be? I had beaten cancer, and gotten back home! It’s what I wanted, right?
Upon reflection, I realized that I wasn’t desperate to get back home physically, as much as I was to get back in time to before I had cancer. When I realized it would never be the same, I went into deep despair.