Mental Health Needs in Vietnamese American Communities Affected by the Gulf Oil Spill


Background: The Vietnamese American Gulf Coast communities have experienced recent disasters, including both hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon (BP) Oil Spill. The objectives of this study were to examine the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on the Vietnamese American Gulf Coast communities and to offer recommendations on how to effectively work with this underserved population. Method: Focus groups were held with Vietnamese coastal residents of three affected Gulf Coast US States (Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi) to assess the impact of the oil spill disaster in the areas of economic hardship, family functioning, and behavioral and mental health issues. Sixty Vietnamese-speaking individuals (65% females) with an age range from 28 - 65 years who had an average of eight years of education participated in the study. Approximately 77% had worked in the seafood industry and about 92% indicated that they spoke English “not very well”. Audio recordings of the focus group discussions were transcribed, recorded on a spread sheet, and categorized into themes by two independent Vietnamese-speaking individuals. A third researcher, also fluent in Vietnamese, checked and compared the spread sheets for accuracy and reliability. Results: Nearly all participants reported being negatively affected by the oil spill disaster. They described loss of income (59%), loss of employment (27%), and inability to pay bills (12%). High levels of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as an increase in behavioral problems were reported. None of the participants claimed to know where or how to seek help for mental health problems. Conclusions: The oil spill disaster has had significant negative consequences for the economic well-being, family functioning, and behavioral and mental health status of the Vietnamese American gulf coast communities. Implications and strategies for working with this population are offered.

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Ngo, D. , Gibbons, J. , Scire, G. & Le, D. (2014). Mental Health Needs in Vietnamese American Communities Affected by the Gulf Oil Spill. Psychology, 5, 109-115. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.52017.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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