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Steve Barrileaux, a psychologist at the Gulfport center, said some of the problems leading to mental health issues are obvious, like the loss of work by a person who rented chairs on the beach. Others are more subtle.
Many people are deeply worried about the environment, for instance, or lament the lost moments they would have spent fishing recreationally with loved ones. Others are still afraid to eat seafood, even on the coast where livelihoods depend on it.
"What's scary is the long-term damage that can be done, and we just don't know about that," Barrileaux said.
Chanthy Prak frets constantly about how to make ends meet in the post-spill world.
Prak worked in crab houses around Bayou La Batre before the oil hit. She and her husband, another seafood worker displaced by the spill, have received only $5,000 in claims payments since May to support them and their seven children.
"I worry. There's money going out but no money coming in," said the Cambodia native.
In some areas, higher rates of mental problems appear to have little to do with the oil.
At Lakeview Center, which provides mental health services in Pensacola, Fla., calls have increased to a crisis intervention line compared to 2009, but relatively few people have mentioned the oil spill as the reason they need help, said spokeswoman Karen Smith. Psychologists believe the uptick is most likely linked to the recession, she said.
More oil came ashore just to the west of Pensacola in Baldwin County, Ala., however, and a survey conducted for the state by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found significant mental health problems that people blamed on the spill.
Twenty-three percent of households in the area reported having at least one person who blamed sleep troubles on the spill, and 11 percent had at least one person with appetite loss. Perhaps most tellingly, 32 percent reported a decrease in income linked to the oil spill, which could lead to additional strain, said Dr. Charles Woernle, the state epidemiologist with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Officials along the Gulf Coast worry that many of the hardest-hit groups -- shrimpers, Asian seafood workers and low-wage tourism employees -- won't seek help for mental problems because of cultural taboos.
At AltaPointe, officials hope to use a share of the BP money to pay for additional oil-spill counselors.
Tejuania Nelson, who runs a day-care center in fishing-dependent Grand Bay, Ala., said preschoolers whose parents were left jobless because of the spill are lashing out in unsettling ways.
"They're throwing desks, kicking chairs," she said. "It's sad. With this, people do not have hope. They cannot see a better time."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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