On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling unit exploded off the coast of Louisiana, resulting in 11 deaths and the largest marine petroleum release in history. Previous oil spill disasters have been associated with negative mental health outcomes in affected communities. In response to requests from Mississippi and Alabama, potential mental health issues resulting from this event were identified by implementing a novel use of a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) in the months immediately following the Gulf Coast oil spill.
This assessment was repeated one year later to determine long-term mental health needs and changes.
A two-stage sampling method was used to select households, and a questionnaire including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) questions was administered. Weighted cluster analysis was conducted, and BRFSS questions were compared to the most recent BRFSS reports and the 2010 results.
In 2011, 8.8%-15.1% of individuals reported depressive symptoms compared to 15.4%–24.5% of individuals in 2010, with 13.2%-20.3% reporting symptoms consistent with an anxiety disorder compared to 21.4%-31.5% of individuals in 2010. Respondents reporting decreased income following the oil spill were more likely to report mental health symptoms compared to respondents reporting no change in income.
Overall, mental health symptoms were higher in the three assessment areas compared to BRFSS reports, but lower than 2010 surveys. These results suggest that mental health services are still needed, particularly in households experiencing decreased income since the oil spill.
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