BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster hits the two month mark this weekend. Since April 20, oil has been gushing into the Gulf, wreaking havoc on the thousands who make a living from those waters. Natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, leave residents devastated but able to begin repair once the crisis passes. The current nightmare has lasted two months, and the oil already in the Gulf will cause longterm environmental damage even once the well is capped. What kind of toll do these unknowns take on people's mental health?
Dr. Elmore Rigamer is a psychiatrist and the medical director of Catholic Charities in New Orleans. He says that Hurricane Katrina, bad as it was, came and went, allowing people to assess the damage. Gulf Coast residents don't know if this oil disaster will last months or years. Rigamer says, "I've talked to young men who don't know if they'll ever be able to return to their jobs." Rigamer believes that our culture tends to over-diagnose "normal" reactions to many situations and he is seeing most people in his area "just cope."
Dean Blanchard, a wholesale fisherman in Grand Isle, LA, has seen his business take an enormous hit. Blanchard says, "We worked the past 28 years for nothing... I've got a lot of fishermen, in their 60s and 70s, that just figure their lives are now over."