NAACP report details hidden cost of BP oil spill

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A special investigation just released by the NAACP indicates that thousands of Gulf Coast residents are suffering mild to severe mental health problems stemming from last year’s oil drilling disaster.

by Derek Turner

A special investigation just released by the NAACP indicates that thousands of Gulf Coast residents are suffering mild to severe mental health problems stemming from last year’s oil drilling disaster.

The investigation’s findings reveal that the impact of the oil spill has led to an overall rise in stress felt by Gulf residents.

“I’m in a depressed mood,” says Stanley Encalade, a resident of Plaquemines, Louisiana who earns his livelihood from fishing and trucking. “I don’t sleep until 12 or 1 o’clock at night. I wake up. I’m walking the floors all night. I am frustrated.”

Some Gulf residents left in the wake of the spill have complained of shorter tempers, increased alcohol abuse, and crumbling relationships. Boat captain William Kruse became so distraught over his loss of livelihood from the spill that he took his own life.

Most telling is the sharp spike in domestic violence. The NAACP investigation notes that, since the spill, reports of domestic violence have doubled and even tripled in some communities along the Gulf.

Jacqueline Patterson, the Director of the NAACP Climate Change Initiative sees a striking similarity between the lingering impact the oil disaster has had on the Gulf’s water and the impact on the residents. “A year after the BP oil rig explosion that dumped 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, the surface of the water appears to be back to normal. Below, however, the ocean floor is severely damaged and many underwater habitats are struggling to recover. The same can be said for Gulf Coast residents. News reports that have focused on the “Spillionaires” – those who have cashed in big on the BP payouts – fail to look below the surface and see those unhealed mental and physical wounds left by the disaster.”

Unfortunately, the needs of residents attempting to cope with the increased stress have been largely unmet. Little to no infrastructure is in place to help families deal with the overwhelming anxiety brought on by the disaster. The region has few health care facilities because many fishermen in the coastal area do not have health insurance. Additionally, those who do seek treatment are often misdiagnosed and mistreated by doctors unfamiliar with the symptoms.

“Immediate reform is needed to prevent victims of the Gulf oil spill from falling through the cracks,” states NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. The investigation suggests that BP finance physical and mental health care systems to ensure those affected by the oil spill receive quality treatment from trained professionals.

Additionally, it indicates that BP should invest in rebuilding affected areas. By generating new jobs, residents will carry less stress about their financial stability.

“We can not turn a blind eye to Gulf residents who are still struggling to find normalcy,” says Jealous. “We must make sure the problems that Gulf residents still face are brought to the surface and remedied before another year passes.”

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