Deepwater Horizon Frequently Asked Questions
- Will participants get study results and how will results be returned to participants?
- Why it is important to participate in DWH studies?
- Why are there so many different studies being conducted in the Gulf?
- What will people get out of participating in a Deepwater Horizon Research Consortium study?
- Did the oil spill affect the mental health of the Gulf coastal residents?
- How does one recognize the signs of poor mental health?
- How do mental health providers diagnose mental health conditions?
- Do the definitions of mental health conditions change?
- When is an evaluation or treatment needed?
- What are good strategies to deal with this?
Will participants get study results and how will results be returned to participants?
Yes. Participants will receive study results. These results will come from the researchers who interviewed or surveyed them, or who collected samples in their community. For example, those who participated in the University of Florida “Healthy Gulf, Healthy Communities” study will receive information from the UF team of researchers and those who participated in the LSU, UTMB or Tulane studies will likewise receive information from those study teams.
Because the studies were different, the type of results and study findings will also be different and may be returned in different ways. Please check the websites of the four Consortium study sites for information on how that study team will be returning results, and when.
Why it is important to participate in DWH studies?
It is important to participate as this will help with future recovery efforts and will also help to prepare better for future disasters. The long term goal of the research is to improve your lives, as Gulf coastal residents, and to find ways to prevent negative impacts on your mental and physical health before, during and after a disaster.
Our researchers will faithfully represent the viewpoints of those of us who live along the Gulf Coast. We will make sure that the information you provide is treated in a way that maintains your privacy. The goal of our research efforts is to work with you to improve our lives along our Gulf Coast
Why are there so many different studies being conducted in the Gulf?
There are many different studies being conducted in the Gulf region because the communities involved had different questions they wanted answered. The studies will answer these different questions about the oil spill such as - did it affect the seafood, did it affect our health or our children’s health, and did it affect the Gulf ecosystem? Each study will come up with some of the answers, but the combined results of the many studies together will give us a much better picture of the total impact of the oil spill.
By having different researchers ask these questions, the answers are more likely to be accurate. The research being conducted is aimed at providing individuals and communities with accurate information to help reduce the negative impacts of future disasters.
What will people get out of participating in a Deepwater Horizon Research Consortium study?
Those who participate in these studies will find out whether the oil spill affected local resident’s physical and mental health, stress, and ability to cope with the disaster and whether the oil spill affected the local fish. Those who participate will also learn more about the research process and science.
Did the oil spill affect the mental health of the Gulf coastal residents?
Soon after the spill, some residents who lost their income, or who experienced damage to property or some other form of disruption to their daily life expressed anger, frustration, upset, and sadness. We do not yet know if there have been any long-term mental health effects to Gulf coastal residents. The WaTCH study and several other studies hope to answer this question.
How does one recognize the signs of poor mental health?
Changes in how someone reacts and behaves may be a sign of mental health problems. Since there is a wide range of normal behavior, seeing a change in a person compared to their usual behavior might be a sign of a problem. It can be harder to tell what is normal for someone you do not know.
- It's often difficult to distinguish normal mental health from poor mental health or mental illness because there's no easy test to show if something's wrong. Mental health conditions are diagnosed and treated based on signs and symptoms, as well as on how much the condition affects daily life. Signs and symptoms can affect your:Behavior. Obsessive hand-washing, drinking too much alcohol, or over-reacting or being short-tempered might be signs of a mental health condition. Stopping activities that you enjoy or avoiding family and friends can also be a sign of a problem.
- Feelings. Sometimes a deep or ongoing sadness, euphoria or anger might be a sign of a mental health condition.
- Thinking. Delusions — such as thinking that the television is controlling your mind — or thoughts of suicide might be symptoms of a mental health condition. Having difficulty focusing your thoughts or concentrating can also be significant.
How do mental health providers diagnose mental health conditions?
There is no medical test to diagnose mental health conditions. Mental health providers have training that helps them to determine if there is a mental health condition by asking questions and evaluating the answers. Sometimes they talk with family members to learn about changes in your mood or behavior and how other people perceive your actions.
- Your signs and symptoms. Your mental health provider will ask about your signs and symptoms, when they began and how they've affected your life. How you perceive your thoughts and behaviors and how much your signs and symptoms affect your daily activities can help determine what's normal for you. For instance, you might realize that you aren't coping well or that you don't want to do the things you used to enjoy. You might feel sad, hopeless or discouraged. If your sadness has a specific cause, such as divorce, your feelings could be a normal, temporary reaction. However, if you have signs and symptoms that are severe or don't go away, you could have depression. You might also need to have a physical exam to rule out another medical cause for your symptoms.
- Others' perceptions. You might not be aware of how others view your behavior, thoughts or ability to function. Other people in your life can help mental health providers understand whether your behavior is normal for you or is changed or if they see that it is disruptive to others. For example, if you have bipolar disorder, you might think your mood swings are just part of the normal ups and downs of life. Your thoughts and actions, however, might appear abnormal to others or cause problems at work, in relationships or in other areas of your life.
Do the definitions of mental health conditions change?
Yes. Research findings can change the way mental health providers think about mental health conditions. These changes include adding new conditions or changing the signs or symptoms of existing conditions.
When is an evaluation or treatment needed?
Each mental health condition has its own set of signs and symptoms. In general, however, professional help is recommended if you or a loved one experiences:
- Marked change in personality, eating or sleeping patterns
- Inability to cope with problems or daily activities
- Strange or grandiose ideas
- Excessive anxiety
- Prolonged depression or apathy
- Thinking or talking about suicide
- Substance abuse
- Extreme mood swings or excessive anger, hostility or violent behavior
What are good strategies to deal with this?
Many people who have mental health conditions consider their signs and symptoms a normal part of life or avoid treatment out of shame or fear. If you're concerned about your mental health or the mental health of family members and friends, don't hesitate to seek advice. Consult your family doctor, make an appointment with a counselor or psychologist, or encourage your loved one to seek help. With appropriate support, you can identify mental health conditions and explore treatment options, such as medications or counseling.
If you are living in Louisiana, by calling to the number 211 you can access resources to help with medical and mental health services. This number also can help with public assistance, job and disaster assistance. If you need assistance and live in Louisiana do not hesitate in calling 211 the staff will do everything possible to assist you.