Not all of the damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is as visible as the oil plumes that washed ashore. The disaster has had a profound effect on the mental health of many Gulf Coast residents, where loss of livelihood has resulted in an increased number of suicides, cases of domestic violence, and instances of substance abuse.
An EDC-led initiative will assist 34 Gulf Coast school districts in getting the information they need to understand and cope with the emotional stress their students may be experiencing. The program is expected to reach about 600,000 residents.
“We are getting resources into the hands of school officials and letting administrators, counselors, classroom teachers, parents, and students know that help is available,” says EDC’s Kim Netter.
Working with Link2Health Solutions and the Ad Council, EDC is distributing information that can help school staff and students alike. Resources include a hotline that connects callers to mental health services; a website with information on how to handle stress and behavior problems; virtual town meetings for school staff; and a social media campaign for teens that involves Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging. Another key aspect of the program is sharing stories of resilience and recovery to inspire people to seek help.
“Schools are often a place of routine and safety for kids when things are topsy-turvy at home,” says Netter.
As part of BP’s effort to support the Gulf Coast’s recovery, it provided funding to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to support this and other mental health projects.
Originally published on January 24, 2011