Story by Dahr Jamail, Photography by Erika Blumenfeld, t r u t h o u t | Report
While the devastating ecological impacts of BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are obvious, the less visible but also long-lasting psychological, community and personal impacts could be worse, according to social scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists.
“People are becoming more and more hopeless and feeling helpless,” Dr. Arwen Podesta, a psychiatrist at Tulane University in New Orleans told Truthout. “They are feeling frantic and overwhelmed. This is worse than [Hurricane] Katrina. There is already more post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more problems with domestic violence, threats of suicide and alcohol and drugs.”
Dr. Podesta, who also works in addiction clinics and hospitals said, “It’s a remarkably similar experience to that of the stressors of Katrina. There is an acute event, but then a long-term increase in hopelessness with every promise that is broken. Like a promise for money to rebuild a life, then people are put through red tape and each time they fail to move forward, they take five steps back in their psychological welfare.”
“The total number of years this will affect us is unknown,” Dr. Podesta said, adding, “however, it could affect us for possibly 20 to 30 years.”
Dr. Janet Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry at Tulane University, told Truthout, “People are on edge. People are feeling grief. I’m hearing of physical illnesses related to the oil and people are worried about losing their home, their culture, their way of life.”