The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Mental Health Assistance Continues for Victims of Oil Spill

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I have to say, I get the sense that all too often after a major traumatic event or large-scale disaster, widespread aid and assistance never seems to stick around long enough.

That said, I was rather surprised this week when I heard a radio commercial telling the story of how BP paid for all the business one Louisiana fisherman lost during the oil spill. Sure, that was likely an older story, a less-than-typical story about the assistance that the oil company doled out to the individual victims. But what isn’t an older story, what is an example of how long-term aid is still being provided to the victims of the spill is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s ongoing and expanded assistance to the spill’s victims:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in collaboration with the Ad Council today expanded efforts to continue to provide information, support and resources to individuals and families affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Emotional distress resulting from traumatic events can surface years after an incident occurs.

“While the immediate crisis is over, many Gulf Coast residents continue to need support as they work to rebuild their lives after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is natural for some people to need help over time in dealing with the emotional trauma and distress experienced from such an event and associated losses,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the early warning signs of serious emotional distress, and to provide access to free resources to those affected in the Gulf state region. The television PSA, featuring Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, and other PSAs aim to help those living in the Gulf states get the assistance they may need to treat and alleviate long term psychological distress.

“For many who live on the Gulf Coast, this disaster has affected us very deeply,” said Dr. Benjamin. “We want anyone who is feeling distressed to know that getting help can be as simple as making a phone call or sending a text message.”

How can an oil spill affect mental health?

Dr. J. Steven Picou, a sociology professor at the University of South Alabama and one of the foremost experts in mental health issues related to oil spills, is worried that, much like post-Valdez Alaska, cities like New Orleans will devolve into a “corrosive community.” In his 1996 study “The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and Chronic Psychological Stress”, he describes Cordova, Alaska, the area most adversely affected by the Valdez, as a community marked by loss of social capital — meaning loss of trust, family, friendships, networks and the sense of belonging within the community. As Cordova’s sense of community “corroded,” there was a rise in domestic violence, self isolation and medicating and depression. He also noted that prolonged exposure to an oil spill will cause many to dwell on the horrifying realities of the disaster, eventually leading to more severe mental health conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For more information:
Oil Spill’s Impact on Mental Health
BP pledges $52 million to support mental health


Written by traumalines

February 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] Mental Health Assistance Continues for Victims of Oil Spill « The Trauma Lines Blog This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged bp, emotional distress, health services administration, louisiana fisherman, traumatic event. Bookmark the permalink. ← Three books on the gulf oil spill […]

    • I tried and can’t get help.
      My husband and I have both not found work in the Hospitality field where we have worked a combined 25+ years. The financial strain was tough but we remained optimistic. I am still unemployed and my husband works for much less money that he has ever made. We have two young children and and the fear that he might loose a job again is devastating. Adding to the financial hardship and anxiety is the frustration dealing with claims (waiting, approval, hope, denial, waiting for outcome of our claims is a constant emotional roller coaster). I am depressed, there are rarely things to look forward to – I make it through the day just to be glad it is over. I have gained 20 lb due to overeating and am at a point where my self worth is so low that I don’t even want to get dressed and leave the house. I decided today that I need help to pull out of this. I found the courage to call the mental crisis helpline I found on the website. I was so embarrassed and started crying so hard that I could barely talk. The lady assured me that it was a good idea and courageous to call and gave me two phone numbers: one that was no longer in service and one for local counseling which would have cost money (which is what I don’t have). I tried two more phone numbers without success. Needless to say – I feel even more frustrated. I will deal with this on my own. My husband come home so frustrated the other day after his car broke down, he just said “I give up” – he doesn’t need to know how hard it is for me to deal with this. I would have laughed aloud if someone would have told me I might experience depression in my life at one point. Tried to find help but really – there is none out there.


      March 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm

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