Mental health professional wonders about oil's effect - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mental health professional wonders about oil's effect

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Rebecca Powers – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There are many questions about what effects the oil spill might have on our economy and our environment. But how will another disaster, less than five years after Hurricane Katrina, affect the mental health of coastal residents?

Mental health professionals say there are things we can all do to avoid feeling victimized yet again.

"If this does occur and the spill comes here, the long term effects will be economic and people out of work," Gulf Coast Mental Health Center Director Jeff Bennett said.

For some, economic pressures lead to depression, drug use and domestic violence. Bennett remembers seeing a lot of people seeking counseling for just such issues after Katrina, and wonders about the potential impact of another environmental disaster.

"Certainly with hurricanes we don't have much control," Bennett said. "With this, it seems nobody has a lot of control because it's so unpredictable."

And loss of control can bring feelings of hopelessness or fear. To fight that, Bennett suggests combating the problem itself, by becoming a part of the solution.

"It's a distraction, if we're here. If we live here and we volunteer, maybe we don't have to think about it so much in terms of what's this going to do to me, but how can I help? And so being able to feel a sense of control by helping removes that sense of uncertainty."

He also suggests being grateful that the situation isn't any worse.

"We need to be thankful that is wasn't as catastrophic in terms of human life."

And by holding on to good news, Bennett said you keep a more positive state of mind.

"I think you have to put it in perspective and take the good news as good news."

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