By Betsi Oliver, Outreach Coordinator
We believe that the coronavirus pandemic has a lot in common with an oil spill in terms of the impact on the mental health of the community. Many of the elements that make an oil spill so challenging also apply to the current COVID-19 crisis, such as the high level of uncertainty, ambiguity, and blame.
Although the Council is not involved with response for the current crisis, we want to make relevant resources known and available.
The Council assisted in developing extensive community support resources in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. These resources were then shared, used, and updated during the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill.
If we were dealing with an oil spill emergency, the Council would most likely be out front offering educational programs to help mitigate the stress and degradation of mental health in our communities. In the COVID-19 public health emergency, other organizations are better suited to help. We hope this information is useful to you.
What is peer listening?
Research shows that many of the people who are affected by disasters are reluctant to use traditional mental health services. One alternative treatment that has been found to be particularly effective is peer counseling. Through special training in listening skills, anger management, depression, and other family problems, peer listeners have a unique opportunity to assist their family and friends with ongoing concerns. Peer listeners may work with local church or community groups as a resource for persons in need. Or, they may work directly with mental health agencies as additional sources of support. Finally, they may be available informally to family and friends, as someone who will listen and may be able to offer some direction.
Training for peer listeners: The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium has released a Peer Listener Training updated for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Training video modules and a supporting manual
Coping With Technological Disasters: One finding after the Exxon Valdez spill is that technological, or man-made, disasters have a more toxic and long-lasting impact on communities than natural disasters. Different support for recovery is needed. The current pandemic shares many similarities with a technological disaster in terms of the impact on individuals and communities. Resources to help communities, including our award-winning guidebook, can be found in our Coping With Technological Disasters materials.