At least two suicides linked to BP disaster -- "If it wasn't for my children, I probably would have already committed suicide" says shrimper (AUDIO)


BP Spill Psychological Scars Similar To Exxon Valdez, NPR by Debbie Elliott and Marisa Peñaloza, December 1, 2010:

Transcript Excerpts

The Struggle

The Hofer family in Bayou La Batre, Ala., is struggling to stay afloat both financially and emotionally. Since the BP oil spill, Aaron, 27, has been largely out of work. Lena, 25, is getting counseling to help her cope and she says she's finally convinced her husband, an Iraq war veteran, to get help at the Department of Veteran Affairs.

"To be honest with you, I would say that my husband would hurt himself," Lena says. "Cause he's never not been able to provide for us. To see my husband cry over not being able to take care of us, it worries me."

Fourth-generation shrimper Aaron Hofer has been close to giving up.

"If it wasn't for my children, I probably would have already committed suicide," he says. ... "I found myself on an eighth story of a building," he says. ... "I've lost my wife. I've betrayed my children. I can't get help and I can't help them. Maybe they'll have a better life." ...

The Hofers received just $1,700 for their emergency 6-month payment, because much of Aaron's pay was in cash and he doesn't have the proper documentation.

Exxon Valdez

"It's almost like Exxon Valdez fast-forward" says Steven Picou, an environmental sociologist at the University of South Alabama.

Picou has spent the last 20 years tracking the mental health fallout around Prince William Sound.

"In Alaska, the communities up there were blindsided," he says. "They did not realize what was happening to them until the suicides started and the divorces started and the domestic violence became acute in the communities."

Now, Picou is seeing the same problems on the Gulf Coast even sooner than they surfaced after the Exxon Valdez spill. In Alaska, he says, there were 7 suicides starting about four years after the spill. He says at least two suicides have been linked to distress over the BP oil spill.

Man-made Disaster

"I mean, we suffered Katrina. We made it through it," she says. "But that didn't take our livelihood. That just took away what we had gotten with our livelihood. And you can get any material thing back." ...

Therapist Pam Maumenee, who is on the oil spill crisis team at AltaPointe Health Systems in Bayou La Batre, Ala., says natural disasters tend to build helping, therapeutic communities. ...

But the opposite is true of a man-made disaster like the oil spill, she says.

"What you see are families against families, brothers against sisters, neighbors against neighbors," she says. "The community becomes quite corrosive." ...

Lena says... "It's taken a toll on it bad. People are stealing, lying, cheating, doing anything they can to make it. I don't want to end up like that. I really don't."

The report concludes, "Sociologists warn if the Exxon Valdez experience in Alaska is the model, the worst could be yet to come."

Listen to the report here.

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