Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mardi Gras, Ups and Downs

Photo Credit: G.J. Charlet

Though Lundi Gras and the build-up to Fat Tuesday were fun and exciting, and I'm so glad to be in New Orleans, I was gripped by an unexpected and deep-seated funk on the big day. Made it to Zulu, which was wonderful, but afterward somehow didn't feel like doing much of anything for the rest of the day.

BUT, many links to great Mardi Gras photos from N.O. bloggers posted by Sophmom at DotCalm!

From Times-Pic, 2/5/2007, "Mardi Gras Uplifts a Beleaguered City":

"Things are pretty hard around here," Handy said. "People didn't have much before the storm and a lot less now. So a nice day with the kids having fun is a good thing."

As a more somber tone dominated on Ash Wednesday, it was clear Mardi Gras had delivered a much-needed tonic.

Hotels reported occupancy rates near 95 percent — an encouraging achievement considering Mardi Gras' early date kept away the spring break crowd.

With slightly smaller crowds and the attention of the national news media focused on the Super Tuesday elections, local residents found Carnival 2008 a time to relax and reconnect with neighborhood traditions.

Still, the fatigue of the storm — which flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and killed 1,300 in the area — could be felt.

Carnival provides a respite, but it also creates problems, said Dr. Mark Townsend, vice chairman at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

"From a psychiatric standpoint it lifts people's moods," Townsend said. "But it also stressed the psychiatric system that we have. We can't take care of many people now and this morning we have more than a dozen people here awaiting emergency beds."

Since Katrina, New Orleans has been gripped by a shortage of psychiatric services, with fewer than 100 beds available for acute treatment, Townsend said. Health groups have reported a surge in mental care needs attributable to the storm.

That's on top of the emotional free-for-all that accompanies the excesses of Carnival.

"Mardi Gras often causes an uptick in psychiatric problems because people are using alcohol or drugs or can't get their medications," Townsend said. "It's not a good time to have a psychiatric problem here."

And I have it from reliable local sources that though the hiring freeze was "lifted" for many state direct-care providers, it still creates myriad problems in filling a lot of direct-care and support positions quickly in state hospitals. And that is a huge sign of a big "psychiatric problem" in our state government.

Also, some must-reads: Maitri's in-depth post on "rebuilding below sea level." And Gentilly Girl's killer rant against corporatizing Mardi Gras.


GentillyGirl said...

Picked up on that on 'eh?

I was livid when I saw the article. Even the catz stayed away from me while I was fuming.

A.F. said...

I don't blame you.

At least these darn hardheaded locals just won't accept the idea--the article conveys that insipid tone--"you try to help these people and they just won't let you because they refuse to understand"--and gives no concrete information to refute local arguments against corporate sponsorship. Infuriating.

Sophmom said...

Thanks for the shout out, darlin'. I was watching from afar. There's always this lag (recovery time) between the event and when the blogger pics get posted.

Interesting insights about Mardi Gras and mental illness. I think folks don't understand mental illness at all. I just don't think most folks can imagine it until they face it, either in themselves (although that's so often unacknowledged) or in someone they love.

Our (meaning the United States') mental health care system is an onxymoron.

Excellent post.