Mental Health Fallout From Oil Spill Just Beginning

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Published June 24, 2010

| FoxNews.com

The U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed police are investigating the deaths of two men who were hired by BP as clean-up workers. According to several published reports, one of them was a boat captain, who had become so despondent over the situation, that he took his own life.

Fifty-five-year-old, William Allen Kruse, from Foley Ala., was found with a single gunshot wound to his head aboard his boat, "The Rookie," Wednesday morning. It was located at the Gulf Shores Yacht Club and Marina at Fort Morgan. The Baldwin County Coroner’s office called his death an apparent suicide and said Kruse did not leave a note.

Deputy County Coroner, Rod Steade Sr., said the boat's crew members had heard Kruse talk about the spill and how it was affecting those who made a living from the Gulf, according to Tuscaloosanews.com.

Frank Kruse, William's identical twin brother, told the Washington Post his brother had been losing weight and was worried every day.

"There's no question in my mind that this is directly related to the oil spill," Kruse told The Post.

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team, said the mental health aspects of the oil spill may well dwarf any physical injuries sustained due to the disaster.

"That's because the spill is a direct stress to people’s self-determination and sense of well-being,” he said.

Steade told Tuscaloosanews.com that the deckhands on Kruse’s boat were on the dock when they heard a pop. When they went back to the boat, they found him slumped over.

“No crisis arrives on people’s doorstep with them being totally prepared and having no vulnerability – many, many people have stresses that they battle in their daily lives and they hold it together,” Ablow told FoxNews.com. “Then, when a big crisis arrives, particularly one that threatens one’s economic well-being and sense of self – it can take someone from coping to feeling completely unable to cope.”

Ablow said that’s the setting “in which people are exquisitely vulnerable to major depression.” He said if you feel someone is completely dispirited by the situation in the Gulf – don’t be afraid to ask them whether they continue to have hope, and if they ever have thoughts of harming themselves. It will be these questions that will help them get the counseling they need.

At the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, medical experts from the Institutes of Medicine — a nonprofit arm of the United States National Academies – held a hearing in New Orleans, La., earlier this week to discuss the health effects of the oil spill on workers and residents in the communities along the Gulf Coast.

A panel of experts expressed their growing concerns over the long-term effects of exposure to the toxic chemicals in the oil, highlighting the fact that so little research has been done in this area to possibly predict what lies ahead for those affected by the spill.

“There is also the threat of mental disorders and stress-related health problems,” David Abramson, director of research for Columbia’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness in New York told Bloomberg news.

“We’re seeing indications that people are drinking more,” said Howard Osofsky, a psychiatrist from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

A spokeswoman for BP told Tuscaloosanews.com that they are cooperating with authorities and have sent grief counselors to speak with members of the vessel.

“I have to say my heart goes out to the family and we have sincere sympathy for the family,” Dawn Patience said.

Currently there are more than 34,000 workers fanned out across the Gulf Coast trying to mop up the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

“Simply losing your job can lead an individual into depression,” Ablow said. “So, job loss in a seemingly unstoppable calamity will affect millions of people’s mental health for many years to come.”

Click here to read more from Tuscaloosanews.com.

FoxNews.com's Jessica Mulvihill contributed to this report.

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http://www.foxnews.com/story/2010/06/24/mental-health-fallout-from-oil-spill-just-beginning/