Breakdown: In Crisis, New Orleans Cuts Mental Health Efforts

"It's very difficult when you start talking about kids. We've had a rise in substance abuse. There was a rash of heroin overdoses that were affecting our adolescents. And were they intentional suicides? Probably not. But were they attempts at escapism because of things being so difficult? Probably," added Saussy, who said the suicide rate in New Orleans has tripled since 2006.

More than 45,000 children in the city having been struggling with some sort of mental health problem since Katrina, according to a December 2007 study by Mental Health Weekly. But there aren't many professionals around to treat them.

Tens of thousands of children with untreated mental health problems can mean a bleak, crime-ridden future for New Orleans, according to Tulane University psychologist Charles Figley.

"There already have been major problems with regard to incidence and prevalence of youth crime, poverty, problems in school, dropout rates. It's a cascading problem when you don't address mental health issues," said Figley, who is also an expert on disaster-related mental health issues.

"Any society is evaluated by how well they treat their children. And unfortunately these kids aren't being treated well."

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