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The Gulf Oil Spill: Emotional and Mental Devastation

My heart breaks for the folks living on the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. For that matter, my heart breaks for the wildlife.

Don’t know about you, but it’s very difficult not to turn away when CNN shows live feeds or footage of crying residents, brown pelicans soaked in crude, and decimated wetlands.

If you’re reading this piece, you’re likely enduring an emotional or mental health disorder. Imagine, if you can, a very large piece of what you call home has been destroyed. And if you, in any manner, made a living from that environment you likely find yourself out of business or unemployed.

And on top of that, your current circumstances are bringing very nasty recollections of a disaster you endured only five years ago. Of course, I’m hinting at Katrina.

As one who endures an emotional or mental health disorder, you know how important your immediate environment –  a sense of home – is. The comfort and security they provide is absolutely priceless, right? Well, now it’s gone.

The woman being comforted in the image, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, is the daughter of a charter boat captain who took his life two weeks after he began doing cleanup work for BP. William Allen Kruse, age 55, shot himself in the head with a Glock the morning of June 23. Reportedly he’d been despondent over the Gulf spill and it’s aftermath. It’s believed he had no history of emotional or mental health issues or treatment. Clikur here for the full story.

From a clinical point of view, any number of diagnoses could come into play amidst a disaster such as the Gulf Oil Spill. And “coming into play” can mean exacerbation of an existing disorder, as well as the presentation and development of something new. Let’s take a look at some possibilities…

  • Major Depressive Episode – symptoms are being super bummed-out most of the day/nearly every day, loss of interest or pleasure in things that once brought joy, decrease in appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, restlessness, lethargy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty thinking, and suicidal ideation or behavior. A major depressive episode is the building block of major depressive disorder and one of the components of bipolar disorder.
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – as a result of exposure to a traumatic event in which one experiences some sort of brush with actual or threatened death or serious injury to self or others; feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror present. And on comes the potential for ongoing and intrusive recollections of the event, in the form of dreams, illusions, or flashbacks. Intense distress, avoidance, hypervigilance, and symptoms similar to a major depressive episode may present, as well. By the way, something known as Acute Stress Disorder is similar in cause and presentation.
  • Adjustment Disorder – an emotional and mental response to an identifiable stressor with symptoms similar to a mood or anxiety disorder – without meeting full criteria.
  • Exacerbation of any existing emotional or mental health disorder.

The Gulf Oil Spill has been, and continues to be, incredibly tragic in so many ways. Certainly the environmental, wildlife, and financial aspects are horrible enough. But we can never forget about the emotional and mental devastation – and hope its victims are able to secure the help they need.

Your feelings and thoughts, chipur readers? Please share with us in a comment.