Surviving the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

On April 20, 2009, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig owned by Transocean Ltd resulted in the deaths of twenty oil workers and created a fireball that could be seen more than forty miles away. Since it was drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, the explosion led to the oil rig's sinking and massive amounts of oil leaking from the seabed.  What followed was the worst oil spill in U.S. history.  It would take months before the well was effectively capped in July of that same year (installing a permanent cap would take until September).

Along with being ecological disasters, massive oil spills can devastate nearby communities leading to a sharp rise in mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Following the 1996 Sea Empress oil spill off the coast of Wales, surveys of people who had been directly affected showed significantly greater anxiety and depression as well as physical ailments such as headaches, sore eyes, and sore throats. While symptoms resulting from post-disaster trauma usually peak in the first year, it is hardly uncommon for some people to report problems even years later.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.


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