Mental health a growing concern after Gulf spill

Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:00pm GMT

* Anecdotal evidence shows rise in stress-related problems

* Little data yet on mental health illness caused by spill

* Prospect of financial worry raises stress levels

By Matthew Bigg

VENICE, La., July 11 (Reuters) - Gulf Coast native Kindra Arnesen is so anxious about the effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill she is packing up her family and leaving town.

"Stress? Dude my clothes are falling off me (because of weight loss). The level of stress here is tremendous. My husband has aged 10 years in two months," Arnesen said on Friday as she loaded possessions into a van outside her trailer home in Venice.

Fears are growing of an increase in stress-related illness and mental health problems from the BP Plc (BP.L: Quote)(BP.N: Quote) spill. Anecdotal evidence abounds but U.S. mental health officials say they lack data about the scale and scope of suffering.

Arnesen recently set up the Wives of Commercial Fishermen network to respond to pressures in the community. Two days ago, a friend told her he was so upset about his failure to get hired by BP's cleanup program he was considering suicide.

Arnesen has her own worries. Her husband cannot work as a shrimper because authorities have closed swathes of Gulf waters to fishing and her children and other relatives have fallen sick from what she believes are airborne toxins from the leak.   Continued...

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