USM student researchers assess mental health

By Jessica Bowman – email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - How did BP's Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill mentally affect Gulf Coast residents? That is just one of the questions University of Southern Mississippi student researchers in the School of Social Work were trying to get the answers to Saturday. More than 100 students went to the three coastal counties surveying residents about the oil spill affects and Katrina.

Two student researchers spent their day on Travia Street going door to door trying to find out if there is an impact on community members that have gone through disasters on the coast.

USM senior Deena Asfour said, "We have randomly selected houses and neighborhoods to see how they are coping with the oil spill as well as Katrina."

Asfour is part of the School of Social Work. She said throughout the survey people were asked a variety of questions.

"Anyone in your household have property that was damaged as a result from the oil spill," said Asfour.

The survey questions put a focus on all aspects of a person's life, including mental, physical and social well-being.

"So far people have said that they've been affected in a lot of ways. Mostly work, a lot of people have been affected by work and even socially you know with the water and the seafood," said Asfour.

"And we're looking at issues of depression; we're looking at adaptation, resiliency. We are looking at the economic impact too," said Dr. Tom Osowski.

Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at USM, Dr. Tom Osowski, said the data the students collect will be analyzed by a research team at USM. He said the team will be looking at the common themes throughout the survey.

"Eventually what we want to use this data for is we are going to publish an academic paper present a different research. But, more importantly what we need to do as social workers to change the way we teach, change the way we respond to disasters," said Dr. Osowski.

"I hope that the survey does some good and I hope something comes about from it. I hope it's shared with the public and people do realize that we have been affected by it in many ways," said Asfour.

The survey was a result of USM receiving a research grant through BP.  Researchers hope to have the results published by January.

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