BATON ROUGE, La. - Almost one year after Hurricane Isaac made landfall in Louisiana, the Department of Health is reminds residents that Louisiana Spirit continues to serve the people of our state. Louisiana Spirit is a federally funded Crisis Counseling and Stress Management program, offering counseling in 14 of the 26 presidentially declared disaster areas across the state.
As Louisiana residents transition into another hurricane season, many people may still feel stress related to past events. Louisiana Spirit is still providing services in the following areas/parishes: Plaquemines, Jefferson, Assumption, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Mary, Terrebonne, Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington.
People feeling stress following Hurricane Isaac can call 1-866-310-7977 to speak to a Louisiana Spirit counselor. Louisiana Spirit is designed to provide short-term support and help individuals return to their pre-disaster level of functioning. In addition to serving those affected by Isaac, Louisiana Spirit provided services to individuals and families affected by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
"Disasters take a toll on everyone affected by them, whether they realize it or not," said LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "Often, it isn't until time passes that we begin to mentally process the impact they have on our lives. I encourage anyone affected by hurricanes to seek assistance if they are suffering and feeling stress in its aftermath. It takes time to heal from disasters, but Louisiana Spirit counselors are ready to help residents recover."
Louisiana Spirit's providers, under the direction of LDH's Office of Behavioral Health, offer disaster mental health interventions, which include outreach and education for disaster survivors, their families, local government employees, rescuers, disaster service workers, business owners, religious groups and other special populations. Free stress management services for employees, as well as public, private and non-profit organizations are also provided.
As of July 2013, Louisiana Spirit has provided over 154,000 people with primary mental health services including individual crisis counseling, supportive information on services available to disaster survivors and group crisis sessions offering skills to help group members cope with their situations. Over 439,000 people have received secondary services, such as education about typical reactions to disasters and coping strategies, community networking support, and adult and child needs assessment and referrals to additional disaster relief, mental health or substance abuse treatment.
"Disaster survivors often try to resume their normal lifestyle after the event, while suppressing post-traumatic symptoms," said Office of Behavioral Health Assistant Secretary Anthony Speier. "It is imperative for anyone with even acute symptoms of stress or anxiety to seek help immediately."
Some of the signs that a person may need stress management assistance, which is offered through Louisiana Spirit, are:
- Difficulty communicating thoughts;
- Increased use of drugs/alcohol;
- Tunnel vision/muffled heading;
- Disorientation or confusion;
- Mood swings;
- Crying easily;
- Overwhelming guilt or self-doubt; and/or
- Fear of crowds, strangers or being alone.
Some ways to eliminate or ease stress include:
- Speak with someone about your feelings and emotions;
- Don't hold yourself responsible for the disastrous event;
- Stay active in your daily life patterns, remain healthy both mentally and physically; and
- Use existing support groups of family, friends and religious affiliations.
Individuals experiencing emotional reactions or an increased dependency on drugs or alcohol associated with the event can speak to a Louisiana Spirit crisis counselor by calling 1-866-310-7977 or through the following local governing entities: Metropolitan Human Services District, South Central Louisiana Human Services Authority, Florida Parishes Human Services Authority and Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority.
For more information on Louisiana Spirit please visit http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/201. To learn more about the Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Behavioral Health visit http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/subhome/10.