Flint residents report higher rates of depression, PTSD years after water crisis

Residents of Flint reported changes in the color, smell and taste of the water shortly after the town changed to the Flint River as its water source in April 2014. Following outrage by residents and reports of children with mysterious illnesses, tests by the US Environmental Protection Agency and scientists from Virginia Tech Dangerous levels of lead detected in water,
for the new study published in jama network open On Tuesday, nearly 2,000 adults living in Flint throughout the crisis were asked about their experiences, their psychological symptoms five years after the crisis, and whether they had access to or use of mental health services between August 2019 and April 2020. it was done. Most of the responses were collected. Before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The researchers found that 1 in 5 Flint residents met the criteria for presumptive major depression, 1 in 4 for presumed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more than 1 in 10 for both disorders.

“Our findings from a study conducted with Flint residents five years after the water crisis suggest that Flint residents report extremely high levels of PTSD and depression, similar to those found in Veterans post-deployment and US and global prevalence rates. The rates are higher,” Angela Moreland-Johnson, one of the study authors and assistant professor at the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, told CNN in an email.

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More than half of those surveyed were women, and more than half of all respondents identified their race as black or African American.

“Individuals who believed that their or their family’s health was moderately or greatly harmed by a water crisis were 123% more likely to have depression than their peers, 66% more likely to have PTSD , and were 106% more likely to have concomitant depression and PTSD,” the study said.

According to the results, men were 28% less likely than women to meet the criteria for depression, and black residents were offered more mental health services than white residents.

“The Flint community may need expanded mental health services to meet continued mental health needs,” the researchers wrote in the study. “National disaster preparedness and response programs must consider psychiatric consequences.”

Lessons learned from Flinto

The new study did not examine the mental health of residents in other communities, such as Jackson, Mississippi, who recently experienced water crises of their own. But Moreland-Johnson said the study results suggest that people involved in crises like Flint “may experience increased PTSD and depression.”

This finding is particularly relevant for people who experienced a potentially traumatic event prior to an environmental disaster, as “these prior experiences may put them at higher risk for mental health concerns, including PTSD and depression.”

For Jackson and Flint, the water may be back but trust is gone

The researchers said communication with residents is important.

“Importantly, we found that those who experienced the most damage from the Flint crisis and who were less confident in information provided by officials about water safety experienced adverse mental health outcomes half a decade after the crisis. study author Salma Abdullah, a research fellow at the Boston University School of Public Health, told CNN in an email.

Eight years after the water crisis began in Flint – even with new pipes and a different water source – some city residents recently told CNN they still do not trust water.

“I’ll never drink water again,” said Audra Bell, whose family buys about 10 bottles of bottled water a week for cooking, brushing teeth and making coffee and drinking for her and her dogs.

Her neighbor Leanne Walters says she does the same.

“There has been no justice in Flint. There is no rebuilding of trust with the government because they have done nothing to do so. So voices go unheard, and people have severe PTSD when it comes to water.” I don’t know that there will be justice in the form of Flint and the damage that people have done,” she told CNN.

Bell said the crisis has been hard on the families, and choosing to live in Flint has not been an easy decision.

Her advice to Jackson residents: “Just do the best you can, and keep your family safe.”

Public works ‘long tail’ environmental disasters

the water is back in jackson Historic flood took out water treatment plant where pumps were already failing, But problems for residents may remain.
The EPA is investigating the Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis as residents remain under a boil-water advisory.  Here's What It Takes To End

Abdullah said the research in Flint “highlights the importance of early action after environmental disasters such as the current Jackson MS water crisis.”

Abdullah said, “This demonstrates the importance of combining efforts to fix the water supply system with clear communication by the authorities to restore confidence in the security of the system. Efforts should also include mental health tools.” those who need it.”

CNN has contacted the city of Jackson to find out what options residents have for mental health support, but did not immediately hear back. In a statement, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health said community mental health centers can provide therapy, peer support and intensive outpatient programs for people in need of psychiatric care and substance abuse treatment.

In a statement to CNN, study author Aaron Reuben, a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the new research “indicates that public works environmental disasters have a long tail, with psychological damage that continues for many years.” can persist if not treated.”

“Simply put, clean water is a necessity for health, well-being, productivity and dignity – and we are failing to provide this basic need to our citizens. We think the residents of Flint who went through a water crisis are, have been remarkably resilient – ​​and yet there is a large, unmet need for mental health services to address the psychological effects of the event, which is reflected in very high rates of diagnosable depression and PTSD.

“The lesson for communities such as Jackson, MS is not to ignore psychological injury, and not to assume that, just because community members are resilient, they can seek services to overcome the psychological scars of a long-term water crisis. Couldn’t take advantage of it.”

CNN’s Sarah Sidner and Meredith Edwards contributed to this report.

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