My friend called me from North Carolina recently and said, "Wow, I was just watching the news, and it looks as though the city is doing great. The French Quarter looks wonderful and I see that the zoo is back. You must be so much better!"

My response: "No, we are not better at all. We have received no assistance from either our homeowners or flood insurance, despite the fact that we met with adjusters in September. The home we are renting will no longer be available in three weeks. Our trailer has not arrived. We have NEVER met with a FEMA adjuster. We are broke and will be homeless again in three weeks. No, we are not OK."

I know I speak for thousands and thousands of people who have called New Orleans their home: the attention received in the early days of this tragedy was relentless. Our pain and suffering touched every home in this country and this nation on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. But now as thousands continue to suffer and drown in grief and despair, the cameras have stopped, the attention has left us to suffer alone in fear and broken promises.

I am a licensed clinical social worker and native New Orleanian. I have been married for 17 years and have been blessed with three boys, ages 16, 11, and 9. We had just renovated our home of 15 years before Hurrican Katrina struck.

My job is to work on the beat with our heroic police officers, trying to assist them as they respond to mental-health calls. And the calls these days are generally from those who have given up. They have lost everything and are completely devastated. Our job is to assist them, to take their hands and try to get them help to survive, to cope. However, in the current state of our city it is becoming an almost impossible task. It is a difficult, if not impossible, task to give others hope when your own has quickly dwindled.

A precious, dear friend of mine took his life not long ago. The agony of what lay ahead was simply too great to bear. Others are making this same choice because the agony, hopelessness, and helplessness are greater than one's own ability to cope.

We lost so many during the storm; I cannot begin to imagine the numbers a year from now. Given what I have already seen, I can wager the numbers will be staggering. For many of those who survived the flood will not be able to be rescued out of the mental anguish and depression they now have to endure.

When "coping" is not enough

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  • I am a person of strong faith and have relied on that faith to carry me through various crises that have occurred in my own personal life. But when Katrina hit, my faith was tested in a way it never was before. My perfect world, my utopia, crumbled beneath me. My spirit, soul, and faith were lost under this rubble, and I have spent the last three months clawing my way back up to the light that I have always known. It has been, and continues to be, quite a journey for me, my precious family, and the hundreds of thousands of others who called New Orleans their home. At times I simply do not want to lift my head off the pillow.

    I sat today with hundreds at the FEMA station. The looks in everyone's eyes display the heartache and sadness of what has happened to them. The answers from those trying to assist are always the same: Someone will be in touch, but nobody ever is. Yet, in our attempts at patience, we continue to sit in lines, talk to emergency personnel, call our insurance adjusters in hopes that maybe, that day, it will be different.

    For the past 20 years, as homeowners, we have dutifully paid out insurance premiums to our homeowners companies and to the government through the Flood Insurance Program. We were timely in doing so and met our commitments, even in tough times. Our Levee Boards and Corps of Engineers in their greed and incompetence have destroyed our homes, businesses, and lives. The insurance companies have robbed us of future hope and are responsible for the ongoing mental anguish of uncertainty, fear, and inability for many of us to even take a step in the rebuilding process.

    Why are the media, which tend to love the horror stories, not sharing this news? We are living the ultimate nightmare. We have so many stories of need to still share.

    I do feel blessed that so many of you have opened your hearts and homes to the people of my great city. The people of this country certainly do let themselves shine in a crisis, and the beauty of what you have done for us will be part of our lives forever. Now, we simply need the government to do its part, and we can walk again in faith and hope.

    The people of this great country want to help; they need to continue to see our plight. We need their help! I want the word out: We are not OK...We are desperate, depressed, anxious, angry, irritable. People are literally killing themselves, relationships are deteriorating, the antidepressants are not working."

    No, we are not OK. We cry for your help.

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