NORFOLK, Va., June 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Gulf Coast residents dealing with one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history are also facing traumatic stress that has no clear precedent, said Dr. Hal Levine, chief medical officer of Norfolk, Va.-based ValueOptions, the nation's largest independent behavioral health care company.
Two months after the oil spill began, residents of the states touching the Gulf of Mexico continue to deal with "anticipatory anxiety," Levine said. Though this is the same anxiety that coastal residents might have as a hurricane approaches, the duration of the oil well leak and the uncertainty of when it might stop makes it almost incomparable.
"The effects of chronic stress are enormous when it goes on this long," Levine said. "With hurricanes, after a few days then you know what you have to work through. In this case, things just keep going horribly, horribly wrong."
Residents could be experiencing difficulty sleeping, loss of concentration, inability to control their emotions and compromised immune systems that lead to colds, flu or exhaustion.
"This isn't like a broken leg," Levine said. "This is more like a chronic, debilitating disease. It's something you have to live with and deal with every day."
Anxiety and the effects of it become more intense as time goes on.
"After week one, you might be O.K.," Levine said. "After day 55, you're not. You can become paralyzed after a while, unable to act."
Levine suggested that people might be better off to reach out to family or friends not directly affected by the spill, rather than talking solely to others who make a living from the water. People who work toward difficult but practical solutions – such as exploring a new job or place to live – will be better off emotionally than those who do nothing, Levine said.
"People who just sit around and wait for others to do something will be hit the hardest," he said.
To help its members cope with this tragedy, ValueOptions® has posted new articles on its award-winning member website, Achieve Solutions. Articles address coping with the constant media coverage of the disaster, protecting one's health in the region, maintaining a positive outlook, and helping those who have been impacted by this disaster. As a public service, ValueOptions will also be posting a handbook on dealing with this tragedy to its corporate site: www.valueoptions.com.
About ValueOptions®, Inc.
ValueOptions®, Inc., the nation's largest independent behavioral health and wellness company, provides services to more than 23 million individuals through a variety of contracts with state and county agencies and, additionally, with health plans and employers. ValueOptions® specializes in management for all behavioral health issues and promotes health and wellness through innovative programs. The mission of ValueOptions® is to improve the health and wellness for the people it serves.