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For Fishermen Wives, BP Oil Spill Brings Back Nightmares of Katrina

Depression rates are up, and so are incidences of domestic violence in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana. This was one of the worst hit areas when Katrina struck, and residents here are hardly unaccustomed to disaster. Barely had these people recovered from the nightmare that was Katrina, than they find they have to deal with new stresses and anxieties brought about by the BP oil spill. Mother Jones has a report on the high incidence of depression, abuse and suicide among the fishermen’s communities in St. Bernard Parish.

These women have to juggle with the multiple responsibilities of caring for their families, keeping their men folk going through these troubled times, and worrying about daily living expenses. Their husbands have seen little business since the oil spill wreaked havoc along the Louisiana coastline, and many of them have started working as cleanup crews. The work requires them to be in close- proximity to dangerous chemicals, and some of the wives worry that their husbands will be left with health effects that last for years after the last drop of oil has been cleaned from the Gulf.

There are other worries too. Local charities are handing out grocery vouchers, but there’s little money left to meet other non-food-expenses.

The stress is telling on the wives. They're depressed, they're angry, and they're worried not just about the financial situation, but about all the stress on their families and their husbands. They speak of husbands who have turned to beating their wives to vent their frustrations and turned to alcohol to lose their sorrows. In Plaquemines Parish, incidences of domestic violence are up, but counselors are not ready to confirm it's because of the spill. One mayor in an Alabama however is more confident. He's blaming the oil spill for a 320% increase in domestic violence incidences in Bayou La Batre.

One thing is clear to maritime lawyers.  As long as the well keeps spewing oil, and as long as these people aren't secure about their financial present and future, we can expect more families to be torn by domestic and emotional troubles.

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