Oil Spill Means Long-term Trouble for Mental Health and Community Well-being

The oil spill in the Gulf is directly threatening millions of people in terms of their mental health and ability to earn a living as they have for generations.   Lessons from other disasters (especially the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Hurricane Katrina) show dramatic increases in all types of social psychological problems (e.g., depression, violence, substance abuse.)  This BLOG post combines a number of articles about these important topics.  Particular attention is paid to the impacts on families from coastal fishing communities and their traditional way of life. 
Click below to learn what is happening to people.

The Psychological Toll of the Oil Spill
By Marc Siegel – June 17, 2010

Research shows how the disaster will damage the mental health of those living in affected areas.  As millions of gallons of crude oil continue to creep toward our coastlines, doctors are increasingly concerned about the physical well-being of workers and residents near the spill site, as they breathe in vapor loaded with aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals. But there’s another cause for public-health concern associated with the oil spill: how it will affect the psyches of those living nearby.

People tend to react emotionally to a disaster like this and over-personalize the risks. The slightest sweet fragrance of crude-oil vapor causes them to think they or their children will soon fall sick; people fret that they will lose their jobs or their hours will be cut as the region plummets into economic decline. These fears, even though based on rational thinking, can cause obsessive worry, leading in some people to anxiety and depression. The news media’s constant attention magnifies the problem, bombarding us with breathless reports about the oil reaching new lands and the latest failed efforts at containment. Soon we can almost smell it from thousands of miles away. …

Unfortunately, Louisiana’s support systems for the mentally ill—not to mention the affected residents—are still reeling from damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina. In the wake of that storm, the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas saw a dramatic increase in depression, anxiety, and PTSD. “We lost the whole mental-health infrastructure in the storm,” Kathleen Crapanzano, medical director for the Office of Mental Health for Louisiana, said to me two years after the storm. “It was inadequate before. Then we lost the clinics, the hospitals, the staff, and the administration.” These cuts in services came just as people needed them most.

A Harvard study revealed that 14 percent of the people living in the region had severe mental illness, compared with 6 percent before. An additional 20 percent had mild to moderate mental illness, compared with 10 percent of area residents prior to the hurricane. Post-traumatic stress disorder, including symptoms of detachment, nightmares, and obsessive thoughts, lasted for years afterward and affected one in five people in the area. More than 6 percent of people in the three-state region considered suicide, twice the national average.  The psychological impact of the current oil spill is likely to be comparable, especially when you take into account the larger scope of the spill, the more densely populated region, and the profound impact on the local economies that rely heavily on the tourist and fishing industries. …

It is likely that people who lose their livelihood are most susceptible, for obvious reasons: Their lives have been radically destabilized, and they are facing financial pressures while trying to figure out what to do next.  Women were more profoundly affected than men, and those with pre-existing psychiatric problems were predictably most susceptible to both short-term and long-term psychological harm. Rescue workers were not as frequently affected as victims, probably because their attention was channeled to the positive feelings of providing aid.

Of course, there are essential differences between a natural disaster and a man-made one. The fact that the current disaster was caused by man and was furthermore potentially avoidable may add to the stress. Psychiatric care and community care will be crucial in the weeks and months to come. Hospitals and clinics are sure to see a huge influx of patients, more than they can handle, so special clinics and emergency hot-lines should be set up to deal with the severe mental-health crisis that is sure to occur. Psychiatrists and social workers may end up being just as important to the Gulf Coast’s recovery as oceanographers and engineers.

Oil spill stress starts to weigh on gulf residents
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times June 20, 2010

As the slick looms larger, mental health workers fear a rising tide of despair.  While listless, oil-soaked pelicans may be the most memorable images of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the fishermen and business owners marooned along the Gulf Coast already are proving just as big a challenge for the mental health workers dispatched from Louisiana to Florida to help vaccinate against the fast-growing epidemic of despair.

The symptoms are well-documented: The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 touched off a wave of suicides, domestic violence, bankruptcies and alcoholism in Alaska that created an entire literature on the unique and confounding psychology of technological disaster.

J. Steven Picou of the University of South Alabama, the author of much of the groundbreaking research on oil spill stress in Cordova, Alaska, now finds himself living 400 yards from the oily sands of Orange Beach, Ala. He has spent the last several weeks traveling to community forums and fishermen’s organizations up and down the Gulf Coast, warning his neighbors of the dangers of isolation and anger.

“The first suicide occurred in Cordova four years after the spill. I try to explain to people, this is a marathon, and you have to try to stick together. And you have to try to take care of yourself,” Picou said. “Don’t become obsessed with sitting in front of the television watching this wellhead just gush thousands and thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every minute.” …

Stop at any marina or cafe along the coast of Louisiana, and the stories are numbing in their similarity and improbable in their misfortune: homes washed away in Hurricane Katrina, rebuilt, flooded again during Hurricane Gustav. And now this. …

“Typically in a natural disaster, there’s a very clear onset of the event and closure of the event. The hurricane passes through, and it may have left horrible destruction, but you can basically say, this is what our destruction amounts to. But with this oil spill disaster, there are no boundaries around it,” said Anthony Speier, who is overseeing the Louisiana Spirit program for the state Office of Mental Health.

“The hurricane was an act of God. It’s a little bit easier to take. You can only be angry with God for so long,” said Elmore Rigamer, a psychiatrist who is state medical director of Catholic Charities, which is working closely with Louisiana to send counselors into seaside communities.  “But this — the more we understand that this could have been prevented, and this was just a failure of corporate ethics in terms of profit, really, overriding responsibility, this makes it really difficult to take,” Rigamer said. …

The biggest source of stress is the uncertainty: How much oil is going to be out there? When will it stop? How bad will the fish get hurt? And what happens if a hurricane hits? High winds and seas could bring the oil all the way to New Orleans, residents fear.  “They know the winds and tides. They know what could happen,” said Tabony, the daughter of a Louisiana fisherman, who worked on an oil rig for 12 years before she got her doctorate in psychology. …

Tabony has counseled a boat captain working with wildlife rescuers who can’t stand to see another dying animal; with convenience store owners who stand all day at the counter waiting for tourists; with people who say they’re so mad they feel like they want to hurt somebody.

“They don’t say, ‘I want to kill my neighbor.’ It’s like, they want to take charge of this. And the troubling thing for me is, there’s breaking points for people.  You look at some of these people and you wonder, when is that person going to snap?” she said  Telling who’s at the end of their rope and who’s merely furious can be hard in a town in which cheerful revenge fantasies have become a favorite form of recreation.

The mental toil of oil — Emilia Barrosse – June 24, 2010

As oil continues to seep into the Gulf of Mexico, psychological traumas caused by the catastrophe similarly seep into the minds of the residents, fishermen and shrimpers of the region. Judging by past environmental mishaps and anecdotal evidence gathered over the last few weeks, this oil scourge is more than just a disaster for the wildlife and beauty of the region — it is also a prelude to a long line of damaging mental health effects for the people of the surrounding area. …

Any recovery plan either the administration or BP comes up with must contain BP-funded psychological counseling for the residents, shrimpers and fishermen affected by the tragedy.  In the past, dramatic ecological disasters have usually been followed by a significant increase in post-traumatic stress disorder among residents and workers in the affected area. …

BP can buy sponges to soak up the oil that has tainted the waters of the Gulf Coast, but funding psychiatrists to soak up the trauma that has seeped into the minds of the shrimpers and fishermen whose lives have been radically altered by this disaster is equally important.

Even if the oil is eventually removed from the coast (unlikely), if the damages left by the oil aren’t similarly wiped clean from the psyches of the Gulf Coast workers, progress cannot be made.  Obama said, “Beyond compensating the people of the gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of the region.”

It’s troubling Obama failed to cite the mental health factor as one of the long-term problems that must be grappled with. The psychological trauma sustained by fishermen and shrimpers is devastating to the vibrancy of the Gulf Coast, and if either BP or the Obama administration doesn’t acknowledge that, oil — and its aftereffects — will continue to plague the Gulf Coast.

Oil spill’s psychological toll quietly mounts
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY and MITCH STACY (AP) – June 27, 2010

The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster feels far worse to shrimper Ricky Robin than Katrina, even though he’s still haunted by memories of riding out the hurricane on his trawler and of his father’s suicide in the storm’s aftermath.  The relentless spill is bringing back feelings that are far too familiar to Robin and others still dealing with the physical and emotional toll wrought by Katrina five years ago.

“I can’t sleep at night. I find myself crying sometimes,” said Robin, of Violet, a blue-collar community on the southeastern edge of the New Orleans suburbs, along the highway that hugs the levee on the Mississippi River’s east bank nearly all the way to the Gulf.  Psychiatrists who treated people after Katrina and have held group sessions in oil spill-stricken areas say the symptoms showing up are much the same: Anger. Anxiety. Drinking. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. …

Fishing families, the backbone of the coastal economy, are especially hard-pressed as the waters that make up their livelihood are sporadically closed because of fears the oil will taint fish, oysters and shrimp.  Oil field workers, whose salaries are among the best the region can offer, worry about their industry’s long-term future.

And there is still the rebuilding after Katrina, which in August 2005 devastated a swath from Louisiana to Alabama — almost as big as the area affected by the oil — killing more than 1,600 and forever changing the region’s relationship with the water.  No one is fishing any more out of Zeke’s Landing Marina in Orange Beach, Ala., though most charter boat captains are making some money pulling boom and doing other jobs in BP’s cleanup program.

Looking at oil all day can be harder than staying home, said Joe Nash, a boat captain there. “Seeing everything that you’ve been used to for years kind of slowly going away from you, it’s overwhelming,” he said. “Because you can’t do anything about it.”  That helplessness, coupled with the uncertainty about what’s going to happen with the spill and when the next check from BP PLC will arrive, leaves boat captain George Pfeiffer angry all the time. …

Social services agencies have not seen a significant increase in people seeking help since the spill began, but that doesn’t mean the need isn’t there, said Jeffrey Bennett, executive director of the Gulf Coast Mental Health Center in Gulfport, Miss., whose state saw oil wash up on the mainland for the first time Sunday.  “Unfortunately, the people most affected, shrimpers and fishermen, are not people who traditionally seek mental health services,” Bennett said. “They’re kind of tough characters, and look at being depressed or not being able to handle their own problems as weakness.” …

Even people whose livelihoods aren’t affected by the spill find themselves crying on beaches, like Nancy Salinas, who was on Pensacola Beach last week when Florida officials closed it because oil was washing up. “It just breaks your heart,” she said. “I can’t get my feet in the water.”  Mental health professionals say it is too early to have reliable data to understand the full severity of stress issues spawned by the spill.

However, their work so far indicates the problem is taking root, and the backdrop of Katrina means it is likely to get worse. Tropical systems such as the one that swirled over the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday won’t help matters, even though it was forecast to bypass the spill. …

Ziegler, the Alabama mental health chief, said counselors have gone out to marinas, docks and other places frequented by fishermen and others affected by the spill.  “They’ve had folks break down and weep,” he said. “They’ve had people share some of their deepest feelings about their future and how they’re feeling now that things seem imminent.”

In Mississippi, Bennett’s group is working with Catholic Social Services in Biloxi on a proposal to train people in fishing communities to work as “peer listeners” to try to identify people who might be having problems and encourage them to seek help.  The social and psychological toll on residents of the Gulf will last long after the oil is cleaned up, say veterans of the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. …

Michael Herz, who served on the commission that investigated Alaska’s spill, visited the Gulf and said it was like seeing it all over again, only worse.  “It took away livelihoods and it split families,” he said. “Some members of family took money from Exxon and others were so upset they didn’t. The rate of mental health, spousal abuse, alcoholism all skyrocketed.”

The oil spill colors the fabric of Gulf coastal life
By Lesley Clark: 06/26/2010

For many in the weathered fishing villages and tiny towns along the Gulf of Mexico, the unrelenting siege of oil is taking a toll on the psyche. A drive along the coast from Louisiana to Florida finds towns still littered with hurricane debris, families struggling to recover, and a mounting worry that oil will finish off what Katrina did not.

In Bayou La Batre — the “Seafood Capital of Alabama” — Kenny Dang, 32, fears for his parents. “All they’ve ever known is shrimping,” he said, coming in from a day aboard the family vessel — this time spotting for oil off the coast.

In New Orleans, artists in anguish over the crude washing ashore created a haunting portrayal of the Gulf’s fragile beauty, hanging works in a downtown art gallery that illustrate its ties to the fishing communities and dependence on the oil industry.

Fishermen find themselves in limbo, unable to make decisions about their future while the gusher continues to flow. Diners in the French Quarter ask about the provenance of their seafood. A bar offers $1 shots of “BP blood … Save the Coast, Have a Shot!” and Save NOLA, a shop that benefits local nonprofits, is selling new T-shirts depicting oiled pelicans that say “I want my life back too!” — a play on BP CEO Tony Hayward’s lament.

Everywhere, the spill dominates.  “I find myself dreaming of waves of brown oil,” said Kim Cheek, 47, a social worker and musical director at Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis, Miss. But for a bell tower, the church was wiped away by Katrina. Parishioners worshiped in the parking lot, under a funeral home tent and in a donated Quonset hut before opening a glorious new structure just three weeks ago.

Nearby, yards from the church’s front door, work crews patrol the beach for oily invaders, a cache of absorbent boom nearby.  “I guess we all have a touch of post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Cheek, noting a post-Katrina surge of divorce, drug use and depression. “This is triggering all those bad feelings. All that fear of the unknown.”  Although oil hasn’t reached Mississippi’s beaches and they’re open to swimming, tourism is down and the unease is palpable. Cheek said the crowd at a recent street fair reached pre-Katrina levels “but you walked close to the beach and you couldn’t miss the smell of oil. Your heart just sinks.”

In a tiny tin trailer at the Sand Dollar Marina on Grand Isle, a trio of Louisiana State University vet students, white coveralls stained brown with oil, administer electrolytes and Pepto Bismol down the long throats of oil-soaked pelicans.  “We just assume they’re doing the best they can,” Jaden Kifer said of the birds. “We can’t worry about them when we’re moving on to the next bird.”

The Reality of Life for Louisiana Fishermen Is an Unpalatable Choice
By ABBY AGUIRRE June 9, 2010 – NY Times

Much of the talk was about what people — shrimpers, offshore oil workers, dock owners, charter boat operators — could do to survive. To stave off collapse, they say they have only two options: apply to the Small Business Administration for a disaster loan, or file claims with BP. Neither does much more than buy a little time.  At a community center in Grand Isle last week, no one was seeking a loan from the S.B.A. After Katrina, the agency was widely seen as frustratingly slow and disorganized, but that’s not why people are not applying. As Mr. Tesvich explained it, “If there are no oysters, what am I going to do with a loan?”

BP promises cash. But its claims process, which the Coast Guard asked to monitor on Wednesday, is also slow and disorganized. The first step is to call the company to get a claim number. When you get a call back, you go to a claim center — there are 25 between Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi — where you submit tax records, profit-and-loss statements and “trip tickets,” the record of a sale made at a dock. A boat captain who is approved gets $5,000. A deckhand gets $2,500.

Fishermen Fear Disruption of Their Way of Life
By AMY HARMON May 29, 2010

Five weeks after the deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, many fishermen here are grappling with the realization that their way of life might be disrupted for a long time to come.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration extended the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico last week, and about 25 percent of federal waters, nearly 60,000 square miles, is now off limits to commercial fishermen.

The notion that the spill would not be cleaned up in a few months, or possibly years, has hit “like the death of a family member,” said Connie Townsend, the owner of a fishing boat charter service in Terrebonne Parish. And in interviews across southern Louisiana last week, the responses included anger, denial and naked grief.  “A lot of times I want to go stand in a corner and cry — not so much for me, because I’ve done it a long time, but for him,” said Mr. Greco, 43, nodding at Aaron as they stood in line at Kentucky Fried Chicken during a lunch break from their training classes on Thursday.

Biologists said that the fishermen’s fears were not unwarranted, especially as the oil advances into the marshes that served as nurseries for many species of marine life. If the populations are significantly diminished, the fisheries will remain closed. While it is still too early to determine the toll, in Alaska, experts note, fishermen are still seeing the effects of the Exxon Valdez spill 20 years later. …

Just how BP will assess claims for lost income is the source of much anxiety along the Louisiana coast. Will the company also account for the upfront investment in oysters, where beds are seeded nearly two years before they are harvested, in a system more like farming than fishing? What if this shrimping season was shaping up to be the best since the early 1990s, as many fishermen contend? …

But even adequate financial compensation might not mute the loss that many fishermen say centers on the nature of what they did as much as on the money they made doing it.  “You can give me all the money you want to give me, but you can’t give me that life back, because it’s a good life,” Mr. Rogers said. “It’s a very good life.”

Fishing offers a peace rarely found on shore and the pleasure of deciding each morning whether to go out. And then there is the addictive quality of hoisting huge nets full of creatures from the watery depths.  “When you pull up that drudge and it’s full of oysters, you get that rush,” Mr. Greco said during lunch last Thursday. …

In a region where residents tick off the disasters they have survived (Betsy, Katrina, Rita, Gustav) the way people might tick off their favorite rock bands, this one offers no obvious way to rebuild.  Michael Roberts, a fisherman from Lafitte, La., said he had to hide tears from his grandson on a recent boat ride in Barataria Bay when he saw oil staining his fishing grounds. “None of this will be the same, for decades to come,” Mr. Roberts wrote in an account he distributed by e-mail.  …

Her anger is not directed at BP but at what she considers lax oversight that contributed to the spill.  “BP is a corporation, it’s going to protect its bottom line,” Ms. Kuhns said. “But where are the government agencies who are supposed to protect the health and safety of our citizens?”

On Grand Isle, where tar balls washed ashore on the beach this month, President Obama on Friday promised to redouble the cleanup efforts.  That did not mean much to the Grecos, who having been taught how to safely extinguish chemical gases and why they needed protective clothing might take part later this week.  But meanwhile Aaron has prevailed on his father to go crabbing. While they still can.

Many in fishing communities accepting handouts for the first time
By AUDRA D.S. BURCH Jun. 13, 2010

For generations, fishermen have worked the rich waters of the Gulf, made a decent dollar, built houses and raised families, largely on their own. But the relentless leak — simply called “the monster” in these parts — is forcing traditionally self-sufficient communities to consider the idea of help.

Many have never accepted aid. Some reached out for help rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina but now must rely on the government, faith-based groups or BP payments. It’s a new reality for Louisiana’s fishing world and a possible sign of things to come in Florida and other Gulf states. Gulf fishermen harvest about 1 billion pounds of seafood each year.

“The culture is not to ask for help, it’s very much about taking care of your own. Many are not used to asking for help or accepting help easily,” says Natalie Jayroe, president and CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans. “But we also know that this oil spill has been traumatic. You are talking about fishermen who have just spent money getting their boats in order for the season, then all of a sudden their livelihoods are taken away.”

Almost 48,000 households in the 14 parishes most affected by the spill rely on income from the seafood industry and related businesses. So far, 1,591 residents have applied for emergency food stamps — known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — at 14 mobile sites set up after the spill, according to the Louisiana Department of Social Services. …

Social service agencies and groups have reached deep into the coastal communities, setting up emergency centers and partnering with churches to offer aid ranging from food vouchers to cash for utilities. Early on, as weary shrimpers, crabbers, bait store owners, truck drivers — most everyone with a hand in the industry — trickled in, the task often shifted to convincing them there was nothing dishonorable about accepting help. The state social services department even began pushing its on-line application process, allowing people to apply for food stamps or other services in the privacy of their homes.

“Some of the people who have traditionally never used these services walk in and you can just see how uncomfortable they are,” said Kristy H. Nichols, secretary of the state’s social services department. “They are dealing with the unknown and we have been trying to encourage them and tell them, if ever there was a time to do it, this is it.” …

“With so many people here whose lives hinge on seafood, there’s a huge need for food since the oil spill. A lot of people live check to check and you have some who were still recovering from the recession and Hurricane Katrina,” said Pastor Bryan Strickland of Cornerstone Church of God in Violet, La. “We had people show up crying, some because they are deeply depressed but also because they were thankful.” …

Further southwest in Grand Isle, where the houses, many on stilts, are named like boats — Dreams Come True, Hard Labor, Serendipity — a mock cemetery has sprung up along the main drag. It has 101 white crosses bearing the names of losses in the summer of oil: oysters, blackfin tuna, playing volleyball, speckled trout, bonfires.

The 20,000 vacationers who typically take over the island community have been replaced by clean-up workers. Fishing and sunning along the pristine beaches — now coated with crude — have given way to the occasional BP press conference at the community center. President Barack Obama has visited twice, making the Grand Isle a dateline for a way of life devastated by the largest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.

“I’m a Nervous Wreck”: Gulf Fishermen’s Wives Face Trauma, Domestic Abuse, Economic Insecurity By Mac McClelland, Mother Jones Online – June 28, 2010,

Inside a cool, shaded old plantation house in St. Bernard, Louisiana, we’re all breathing in our favorite color and blowing out gray smoke.

This relaxation exercise is brought to a roomful of women by the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit founded in 2006 to provide rebuilding services to Katrina-ravaged St. Bernard Parish as well as offer “psychological rebuilding” through its wellness and mental-health center. Since the oil spill started, the organization has been looking to vastly expand its services to meet the area’s latest mental-health crisis: the unrelenting depression falling on families living and working on the Gulf Coast. Everyone here except the three clinic workers and me is a fisherman’s wife. …

The claims checks BP is supposed to be sending are eight days late, which means everyone’s out of cash for necessities. The day before, cars lined up and down the nearby highway for a 38,000-pound food giveaway. This morning, like every morning, there was a line outside a church center in New Orleans East, in a part of town where stray dogs scavenge trashy lots and industry makes the air smell like burning toast. There, and at four other locations around Southern Louisiana once a week, Catholic Charities is giving out $100 grocery vouchers. Though they don’t open until nine, sometimes it takes being at the doors by four in the morning, when it’s somehow already hot, to get one, because they always run out. But you can’t buy toilet paper with the vouchers—food only. …

In the meantime, the women’s husbands are working for BP, doing cleanup. Boat captains make $36 an hour, $25 for deckhands, but BP’s capping their wages at $200 a day. All around, it’s far less than the husbands usually make in June. And there’s a lottery for work. Those people who get drawn seven days a week? It’s rigged, the women say. There are cliques.

And the men? How are they dealing with their own anger?

“My husband’s talking about finding BP CEOs and hurting them, even if he has to go to prison forever. He’s not thinking clearly. The oil spill has completely consumed him.”

“They can’t smoke pot anymore. It’s just a part of the culture, all the fishermen do it, but now they have to take drug tests to get the cleanup work. So now they goin’ drinkin’.”

“My husband’s goin’ drinkin’. My husband comes home and screams at me. The food’s not good enough, the floors aren’t clean enough. That’s why I’m here, for him to take it out on me.” …

Michelle tries to offer some perspective to the women by explaining that their husbands’ anger is just a reaction against helplessness. He can’t fix this, but he can fight. That’s why we need to breathe to learn to be calm when we’re awake. We need to accept surrender in the situation. If we can keep ourselves grounded, it helps the other person to ground themselves. That’s one reason why the St. Bernard Project is reaching out to the fishermen’s wives—to spread some of the grounding back to guys who aren’t really therapy types. As Margaret Dubuisson of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, which has recently added 17 case managers and crisis counselors to its staff, says, “They’re not the kind of people who think, when trouble comes along, ‘Oh, I need a shrink.'”

Soon after this session, we’ll hear about an Alabama charter boat captain shooting himself in the head on board his vessel, which hadn’t seen much business lately aside from doing cleanup work for BP. “He had been quite despondent about the oil crisis,” said a coroner. One of his deckhands told the Washington Post that many more fishermen share his boss’ despair: “It’s just setting in with ’em, you know; reality’s kicking in. And there’s a lot of people that aren’t as happy as they used to be.” …

Plaquemines Community CARE hopes to expand its wellness services with satellite offices, but doesn’t have the funding yet. Catholic Charities does its counseling in St. Bernard on the back porch of a rectory. The organization, which is also the only place many workers affected by the spill can go for some help toward rent and utilities, got $1 million from BP for this kind of emergency assistance. The money ran out in less than a month.

The scenery between New Orleans and the St. Bernard Project office is grim, the stuff they show you on disaster tours, neighborhoods that look like Katrina was five weeks ago, not five years ago. The project is still helping the hurricane’s survivors, treating 300 low-income patients suffering post-storm trauma in the last year and a half. They saw a surge of mental-health care need just from local residents watching eerily familiar total devastation in Haiti on the news. They now need two satellite offices and to increase hours; Patron Tequila is currently sponsoring a five-city fundraising train tour.

Advertisements

One Response to “Oil Spill Means Long-term Trouble for Mental Health and Community Well-being”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Graphic, 3D, and a testament to our need to make better choices….Thanks for all the energy you put into presenting this like both an artist and a compassionate sociologist. LOVE IT!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: