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Mental health experts worry about oil spill emotional effects

Mental health experts worry about oil spill emotional effects

Posted: May 26, 2010 4:24 PM EDT Updated: May 26, 2010 6:20 PM EDT

By Danielle Thomas – bio | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mental health experts say for some people, the crisis in the Gulf could dredge up unresolved feelings from Hurricane Katrina. The emotional fallout from the oil spill was one of the topics discussed at the Community Wellness Conference in Biloxi Wednesday. 

A coalition born out of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is now preparing to deal with the emotional toll of the BP oil crisis. Officials with REACH NOLA say coping with the latest disaster may be more difficult for some people.

"The hurricane itself and the flood waters that came in was a short term occurrence that we can pick up the pieces afterward," said Benjamin Springgate of REACH NOLA. "With the oil spill, the duration of it is something that we're still not clear on how long it is going to take."

Mental health professionals met in Biloxi to discuss what they say is rising anxiety levels along the Gulf Coast. They are especially concerned about the fishermen and tourism workers whose way of life is being threatened.

"This will affect them emotionally in a long term way," said John Hosey of the Interfaith Disaster Task Force. "You might see domestic violence increase. You might see suicide increase, drug and alcohol increase. So what we're trying to do is get ahead and be prepared as a collaborative network of people with some of these issues."

Mental health professionals say people who feel overwhelmed by stress need to have a support system.

Springgate said, "If it's a person who goes to church and continuing to be active in church. If it's a person who is involved in their neighborhood association, then continuing to be active in that. Staying in touch with your family members and your friends and not allowing yourself to be isolated."

"Communicating a message of 'Hey look a lot of people if not all of us at times go through depression. Go through some sort of traumatic experience," said Charles Allen, of REACH NOLA. "It's not uncommon. What is common and thankfully what is helpful is that there's help."

On Thursday, a speaker familiar with the Exxon Valdez oil spill back in 1989 will discuss the emotional effects that followed that disaster.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. 

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