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Your Environment. Your Health.

Deepwater Horizon Frequently Asked Questions

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.


The lead institutions in the “Deep Water Horizon Disaster Research Consortia” network collaborate on research ideas and outreach approaches, and share their scientific results.  This network assembles information to develop a big picture overview of how social, economic and health effects of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill have impacted Gulf coast residents. Research institutions partner with grassroots community organizations to address local issues, involve local skills and knowledge in the research process, and communicate research findings in ways that best suit the needs of each community.  Because the four consortia projects have different research goals and the needs of community partners vary from site to site, the process for sharing results and information is unique to each project.

Why was it important to participate in DWH studies?

It was 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 the lives of Gulf coastal residents, and to find ways to prevent negative impacts on your mental and physical health before, during and after a disaster.


Many of us along the Gulf Coast have been asked to participate in research following the Deep Water Horizon disaster. Much of this research is conducted to find out how the oil disaster has affected us and our communities. This information will help guide future recovery efforts. It is your willingness to participate in the various research efforts that will provide this valuable information.

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 were, and continue to be, 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.


Since the oil disaster in 2010, different groups have started research projects to understand the impact of the disaster on the people and the environment of the Gulf Coast. Some of these projects focus on the safety of our seafood. Other projects focus on how the disaster affected our lives and our communities. Still others are interested in how exposure to the oil and dispersants might affect our health.

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 participated 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 participated will also learn more about the research process and science.


  • Communities benefit most from being part of studies when they are an active partner throughout the study--from the beginning until the results are available. These kinds of studies are called community-based participatory research.  The important role of community members is to guide how the research is being done to make sure the studies have the best chance of answering their questions.
  • Successful partnerships mean that everyone trusts and respects each other
  • There are many different studies underway to answer difficult questions. Being part of these studies might give us some answers to the following questions:
    • Is my seafood safe to eat?
    • Are there still harmful contaminants in the Gulf ?
    • What is the effect of the oil spill on pregnant women and their babies or women who can become pregnant in the future?
    • How can stress affect our health?
  • Studies can help determine next steps to help protect your health. For example, if a study finds a harmful effect an individual can take action to protect his/her health
  • If a study does not find an effect, then this information can help address community concerns and worry
  • The studies underway pay special attention to our Gulf Coast communities who suffered from multiple disasters in the last few years
  • Communities play an active role in sharing the findings of studies
  • Being part of a Gulf study means being part of the history of the disaster by sharing your experiences so that everyone can learn
  • Community members who participate in studies can learn how to protect their health in the future
  • “Without scientific studies we cannot prove the real effect on our lives”. (real quote)

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 findings from WaTCH study and several other studies hope to answer this question.


The NIEHS and NIH are studying the long-term health effects of community members in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.  Very little research has been done on the long-term health effects from oil spills on this population the WaTCH study, in particular, is studying the links between oil spill exposures, community resilience, and genetic susceptibility (increased risk of getting diseases that are passed on from parents to children) as these factors have never been studied together before.

Specifically, these studies will look for depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety disorders, increased substance abuse, increased violence and suicide in adults. These studies also include emotional and social conflicts, ability to concentrate, and increased fear about the future in children.

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.


Mental health: What's normal, what's not
By Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article

  • 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.


To determine if you have a mental health condition, a mental health provider will work with you and your loved ones to assess:

  • 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.


New research can lead to changes in the classification of mental health conditions. New conditions can be added, existing conditions can be removed, and signs and symptoms can be modified as new opinions develop. For example, researchers are considering whether premenstrual signs and symptoms may be added to the DSM as a diagnosable condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Revisions may also reflect evolving social and cultural attitudes.

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

(Source )

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.
(Source )

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.

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