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Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Archive for April 2011

Gulf Oil Spill: One Year Later

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When a disaster like the Gulf oil spill happens, it’s easy to think that things may never get better. Yet as the months pass and the clean-up effort intensifies, hope begins to spring forth that businesses will recover, environmental habitats will slowly improve and new spawns of wildlife will repopulate the waters and the wetlands.

However, one year later, several issues still remain…

According to National Geographic, scientists say they are still documenting animal deaths and deformaties that are likely related to last year’s spill:

On the first anniversary of the Gulf oil spill, scientists are observing strange deaths and deformities in animals that could be related to the disaster, experts say.

In the past six months, the numbers of dolphin and sea turtle deaths in the Gulf of Mexico have risen, and some fish that inhabit the Gulf’s coral reefs have developed abnormalities.

But others say the biggest concern one year after the spill is mental health:

Now, a year after the Gulf oil spill, there are concerns that even though the ecological effects of the accident aren’t as great as initially feared, residents along the coast might suffer the same fate their predecessors in Alaska did. A forthcoming study of Gulf Coast residents affected by the spill — conducted by Picou, Liesel Ritchie of the University of Colorado and Duane Gill of Oklahoma State University — found that one-fifth of respondents qualified as being under severe stress, and one-fourth were in moderate stress. Those numbers are comparable to stress levels in the Prince William Sound area a few months after the Valdez spill.

What’s especially disconcerting about the Gulf oil spill and the mental health recovery effort is one of the main mechanisms set up to repay residents for time and money lost, has been said to be one of the main causes of continued mental stress in the Gulf:

The irony in the Gulf is that the one measure that was put in place specifically to reduce stress and get the community back on its feet quickly — the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), which pays out damages from the spill — seems to be a major source of distress. The GCCF, which is run by Boston lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, was set up to disburse the $20 billion in funds put aside by BP to make the Gulf right, but since it began operations last August, residents have complained about slow payments, baffling paperwork and unfair settlements. There is confusion about whether lawyers should be involved, and anger over the fact that any resident accepting a final settlement from the fund has to forswear the right to sue BP or anyone else connected to the spill. The operation clearly isn’t perfect, but it’s “doing what’s intended,” Feinberg told reporters on April 18. For Gulf Coast residents, however, those good intentions are taking too long to play out.

Unfortunately, it is all too evident that the recovery effort in the Gulf is still fully underway, and the mental health recovery from this traumatic event still has a long way to go.

Click here to read all our previous posts on the Gulf spill and its impact on mental health.

Written by traumalines

April 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm

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Are You Truly Prepared for A Disaster?

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Isn’t it amazing how some things in our life, no matter how minute they are in retrospect, can really disrupt our everyday routines? This past winter after a blizzard which dumped about two feet of snow in my town, I was amazed how this snow caused such a disruption, between the problems trying to just get around, to the lack of parking spots, and not to mention all that shoveling.

It hit me that in a short while this snow will melt, the plow trucks will carve out some drivable roadways, and life will return to “normal.”

The point here is it really made me consider how difficult everyday life must be after a true natural disaster like an earthquake, tornado or flood. If my life is this inconvenienced by some snow, imagine the disruption if building were reduced to rubble, there was no running water and some of my fellow residents were injured or even killed.

I wanted to share a blog post from the extremely popular personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly (GRS). Now you may be saying to yourself, “What does personal finance have to do with trauma or disaster preparedness?” GRS does a fantastic job at weaving nearly every aspect of your life into its impact on your finances.

So, are you financially prepared for a disaster? Just because you purchased a disaster preparedness kit form the Red Cross doesn’t mean you’re prepared for every scenario. Have you thought about life’s most basic needs to the point of how and where you will go to the bathroom if there’s no running water?

Be sure to read “Emergency Preparedness on a Shoestring.” Here’s a little sample:

Images of devastation emerged after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. We watched water sweep away vehicles and houses; we saw stunned men and weeping women in the ruins. But we also heard about survivors whose homes weren’t flattened or inundated, people who subsisted on stockpiled food and water while waiting for help. Living on the “Ring of Fire” means temblors and tidal waves are a fact of life — and so is disaster preparedness.

We need to be prepared, too. The Department of Homeland Security’s Ready America program says we should be able to sustain ourselves for at least three days after an emergency, whether that’s a hundred-year storm or a civil insurrection.
How ready are you?

Right now, before anything bad happens, is the time to build your emergency kit — and you can do it on a budget. In fact, you probably already have some (or a lot) of what you need.

Written by traumalines

April 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm