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Emotional Scars Still Haunt Katrina Survivors

A federal mental health agency says as many as a half-million people who lived along the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast may need help for depression, anger and other problems as they try to rebuild their lives and face the prospect of future storms.

Michael Knight is one of those people. The tow-truck driver is rebuilding his house, and has no plans to leave his neighborhood.

But he is still haunted by Hurricane Katrina. During the storm, he says, he used his own boat to rescue neighbors when city officials had abandoned the area. But he couldn't save everyone.

"I left two down the street dead ... never going to see them again," he says, tears filling his eyes.

Authorities with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration say the enormity of the catastrophe, the loss that people suffered and the lengthy recovery period have created an overwhelming sense of hopelessness for some.

The agency has produced public service announcements promoting a toll-free hotline number for counseling. It also funds, along with the FEMA, a crisis counseling service called Louisiana Spirit. More than 600 counselors, who are trained professionals with social service agencies throughout Louisiana, are providing services to people still suffering the emotional effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.