Last week, Gulf Coast residents were devastated by the suicide death of one of their own, Charter Boat Captain William Allen “Rookie” Kruse. (See story here.) Kruse is briefly interviewed in this CBS video, which reports that calls to suicide lines in Louisiana have increased from 400 to 2,400 in the two months since the spill, many people having just recovered from Hurricane Katrina losses. During a two-day hearing on the physical and emotional impact of the spill, Howard J. Osofsky of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans said, “”We’re seeing already an increase in suspiciousness, arguing, domestic violence. . . . We’re already having reports of increased drinking, anxiety, anger and avoidance.”
Residents of the Gulf Coast find themselves disoriented, lost, confused and overwhelmed. Anger, stress, fear and uncertainty about their futures have led to violence and substance abuse. Many backwoods fishermen know nothing else but the bayou and the sea. According to psychiatrist Elmore Rigamer, state medical director of Catholic Charities, “These Cajun fishermen, who’ve always been with their fathers, their grandfathers, on these boats, they’re coming in wanting to know how they can get a GED. I just can’t imagine them in an office.”
In response to the mental health emergency, officials are trying to reopen the mental health response network “Louisiana Spirit,” created to help victims of Katrina, which was just shut down last December. They are hoping to fund it with part of the $300 million in social service funds the state requested from BP, but which has not yet been forthcoming. Anthony Speier, overseer of the “Louisiana Spirit” program, told the LA Times, “Typically in a natural disaster, there’s a very clear onset of the event and closure of the event. The hurricane passes through, and it may have left horrible destruction, but you can basically say, this is what our destruction amounts to. But with this oil spill disaster, there are no boundaries around it.”
All along the coast of Louisiana, in the bars and marinas, there are myriad tales of Gulf Coast residents who had almost recovered and rebuilt from Hurricane Katrina and subsequent hurricanes, only to find found themselves in this latest mind-numbing oil spill disaster. If Don Griffin, owner of Griffin’s Marina and Ice in Leeville, Louisiana, didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. He told the LA Times, “After Katrina and Rita, it was pretty bad. We were closed like three months to get everything repaired and reopened. And then Gustav and Ike. And after that, we were ready to reopen again, and unfortunately the store caught fire. And then the oil spill came along. At this point, we’re just waiting for the day that comes when we might have the end in sight.”
Many residents are spending the unwanted spare time in bars. Adam Trahan, a shrimper, has been alternating between the bar at Cisco’s Hideaway and the oceanside deck at Artie’s out on the highway. “I look out there and I see my life ruined,” Trahan told the LA Times. “There ain’t no shrimpin’, there ain’t no crabbin’, there ain’t no oysterin’. Well, the only thing I know is shrimpin’. That’s all I know. Now you tell me: Where do I go from here? It’s heartbreakin’, baby.”
Others just wander from their businesses to their homes aimlessly. Dean Blanchard, 51, who owns a seafood company, said that he walks to his empty warehouse every morning, returns home to watch CNN’s oil spill coverage, and goes back to the warehouse. “I’m just walking around in a circle, more or less. I don’t know what to do. I never been this confused in my life.” According to Blanchard, he and his suppliers have been sitting around in his office trying to figure out what to do, and, “…pretty soon, before you know it, we’re all there crying. I never seen so many grown men cry in my life. Tough men, you know? Tough, tough men. Tough as they come. Just break down and cry.” As Blanchard watched BP’s Tony Hayward’s testimony before congress, he said, “The first thing I’d like to do is punch that CEO in the mouth. That’d make me feel a little bit better, I guess. I think I’d give a million dollars for one punch.”
Interviewed by WKRG after Captain Kruse’s suicide, and also appearing in the above linked video, counselor Debbie Blankenship said, “We need to all be aware because one person taking that ultimate action seems to give other people permission and we don’t want that to be true. We don’t want this to become a cascading event.” Blankenship welcomes those that need help to call her at (251) 543-1051.
This site, Vialink, provides information on oil spill information and resources, including claims information, food banks and mental health counseling services.
Sources: Current.com.news; LATimes; WRKG.com; BigSoleBlogspot