Lake Charles Mental Health Guide

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Resources, stories and information on mental health and hurricane recovery in southwest Louisiana

Image courtesy of Southerly Magazine.

A note from journalist Carly Berlin


Image courtesy of Southerly Magazine.

The day after Hurricane Laura hit last August, I drove from my home in New Orleans to downtown hotels where many evacuees from southwest Louisiana were staying. With a face mask and a notebook and pen in hand, I spoke to families mired in uncertainty: unsure of the state of their homes, their neighborhoods, their jobs. “It’s the hardest thing,” a father told me. “Not knowing if we have something to come back to. “

As the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, a digital medium covering ecology, justice and culture in the South, I stayed on this story of recovery from a storm. I have made several trips to southwest Louisiana, reporting on the challenges voters face ahead of the November election, the pressure on teachers when schools reopened last fall, and the ongoing housing crisis.

A lot of people have told me about their mental health checkup over the past year. Losing loved ones due to long battles with COVID-19. Gathering with a dozen parents, with little personal space. Struggling to find secure housing or stable employment. Lack of water and electricity after the winter storm in February. Get stranded in their cars after the historic May floods. To be moved, far from home. Feeling isolated in the face of a crisis during a pandemic that has forced us to stay apart.

That’s why my team and I decided to create this guide. Inside you’ll find stories from your neighbors about their mental health issues. You will find information on local and affordable mental health services that we have checked. You will also find links to my current reporting and ways to contact me if you have any ideas for stories I should cover.

The past year has pushed each of us beyond our capabilities. This is probably more true for residents of southwest Louisiana than it is for anyone, anywhere else. You’re not alone. I hope the stories resonate and you find the resources here useful, especially as we prepare for another hurricane season. – Carly Berlin



Image courtesy of Southerly Magazine.


Image courtesy of Southerly Magazine.

In the weeks following Hurricane Laura, residents were in shock. We were trying to find out the extent of damage to homes and businesses while deciding when to return to the area. By the time Hurricane Delta hit six weeks later, many of us had returned – even though the return meant we were living with friends or family – and others were living elsewhere.

On social media over the next few weeks, I noticed what I called toxic positivity – an effort to stay optimistic about an event that had a significant negative personal impact. Articles about damage to homes and businesses regularly ended with “but other people got worse.” At first glance, such a statement appears to be an acknowledgment of gratitude. However, gratitude and grief can exist at the same time. One does not deny the other. Silence about personal and large-scale loss can contribute to mental health issues that cannot be treated because they go unrecognized. When people asked for advice, they often couldn’t express what was wrong.

The effort to be positive and move forward was so strong that it obscured the fact that the storms had taken their toll. Two things can be true at the same time. It’s normal to feel both sadness for the loss and gratitude that the situation was manageable.

Kevin Yaudes

There was also a stigma around mental health. I have heard “I can handle this on my own” or “It’s a family affair” several times. The general idea was that if you are strong enough then you will be able to go through anything. However, even for those with strong coping mechanisms and a strong support system, a series of important events can create a situation in which coping skills and support systems fail. In the work I do with suicide prevention, I hear this as “I could never kill myself.” The point is, you don’t know what you’re capable of given the right set of bad circumstances.

And many in the Lake Charles area were there. Nothing could have prepared residents for the emotional toll of back-to-back hurricanes. As money became available for hurricane recovery, mental health services and resources came back online. New opportunities have become available to receive services. But as with housing, businesses and infrastructure, recovering from the mental health crisis created by hurricanes will take years.


Stories from your neighbors and community members

We featured Miller and Morgan in our stories on hurricane recovery and displacement. Here’s what they said about the impact of the pandemic and hurricanes on their mental health.


Sacha Miller. Image courtesy of Southerly Magazine.

Miller is a single mother who was evicted from her apartment after Hurricane Laura.

“I still have depression and anxiety that I am dealing with. I have to isolate myself, maybe in a closet, to face it. Be still for a good 20 minutes to think about myself. I write a lot in a journal. It helps me. I read books. Teach my daughter some things too. I just hope it doesn’t get more stressful. But at the moment I am able to function, I am able to get up in the morning. There were times when I didn’t want to. After Hurricane Laura, I couldn’t get up, I didn’t want to get up. I was just lying there. But now I take my daughter to school, I go to work, I come back. We read books. We pray together before it’s time to go to sleep. I pray a lot, this is really my strength. I felt like at one point I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to do it anymore. And I called, I spoke to the person on the crisis line. And they got me through it. It helped me. They reminded me of things to remember. That I have a daughter to take care of. And I will leave her. And I wouldn’t want to do that.


Lisa Morgan. Image courtesy of Southerly Magazine.

Morgan is a teacher at LaGrange High School.

“It was so much to take into account. COVID, then two storms back to back. As I said, some still have no housing, and I am one of them. So it’s a lot, it’s a lot to deal with every day. And, you know, you just don’t have everything in place like your life, your personal life. I talk to my students. I wanted to share with them what I was going through because I didn’t want them to feel alone in this situation. So I am transparent. I’ll let them know, you know, that Dr. Morgan is out of place as well. And when you are displaced, you are considered homeless.

WHERE TO ACCESS HELP

We spoke to each of these service providers about what they offer to the southwest Louisiana community.

Kay Doré consultation clinic

SERVICES: Individual, couple, family and group counseling. Sessions are led by graduate students of McNeese State University’s Master of Arts and Counseling Psychology program under the supervision of a licensed professional counselor.

COST: $ 20 per session.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: All residents of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes.

CONTACT: Call 337-475-5981 to set up a first appointment


Imperial Personal Services Authority of Calcasieu

SERVICES: Imperial Calcasieu Human Services Authority provides mental health, behavioral health, addiction, developmental disability services, as well as integrated primary care.

COST: Take out insurance, or a sliding scale based on income (10-90% covered, or free). Also has a Medicaid application center.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: All residents of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron and Jeff Davis parishes.

CONTACT: https://imcalhsa.org/ (phone numbers available for each location) or email [email protected] Crisis hotline: (800) 272-8367.


Other resources

“Keep Calm Through COVID” hotline operated by the Louisiana Department of Health: 1-866-310-7977
National lifeline for suicide prevention: 1-800-273-8255
Specific LQBTQ – Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386


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