by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
Interstingly, some psychologists are weighing in on possible distrust toward the oil company BP and “government officials,” speculation that is not necessarily backed up by scientific evidence. What follows is from the website of the American Psychological Association
The most visible damage from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill might be to the Gulf’s beaches and its wildlife populations, but damage is also occurring to the psyche of many who live in the Gulf, as they lose trust in public officials to handle disasters effectively and become withdrawn from their neighbors, say psychologists who’ve studied the effects of other environmental and community disasters.
University of California, San Francisco, psychologist Nancy Adler, PhD, who chaired an Institute of Medicine workshop on health effects of the Gulf oil spill, sees similarities in people’s frustration with official responses to the cleanup and with post-Katrina problems. “A lot of the issues around Katrina were about mistrust, and we’re also seeing a lot of mistrust of government now,” she says.
People who’ve lost their jobs don’t know if they can trust BP to reimburse them properly. The halting nature of the cleanup and capping efforts, as well as the government’s perceived mismanaging of its oversight of the spill, may also have eroded confidence in public officials.
“There’s a lack of trust but there’s also this sense of helplessness, of hopelessness,” adds Nadine Kaslow, PhD, a clinical and family psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta. That’s led to cynicism surrounding just how effective and well planned the government’s and BP’s relief efforts really are, she says.
Now that the gusher itself seems to be contained, many are wondering about potential health risks posed by the oil — and whether they should trust government scientists who’ve so far claimed that there’s no evidence the oil is hazardous to one’s health.
“But people realize that ‘no evidence of harm’ isn’t the same thing as ‘evidence of no harm,’” Adler says. To convince people to trust in their findings, “scientists have to be willing to step down from a totally objective standpoint and speak straight,” she adds.
This article is interesting in that it brings up the question of whether or not mental health professionals should speak out on politicized issues, beyond scientific facts. What do you think?
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