News that BP is unlikely to pay any claims related to mental-health problems caused by the oil spill has angered health groups around the country. On Friday, the American Psychiatric Assn. became the latest organization to demand that BP treat mental-health claims similarly to claims of physical illness or injury caused by the spill.
BP claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg testified recently before the House Judiciary Committee that the company will probably not spend any of the $20 billion relief fund to settle mental-health claims. However, mental health experts say many residents of the Gulf region suffer serious anxiety, depression and stress related to the effects of the spill. In one highly publicized case, a fishing captain distressed over the spill committed suicide.
"Mental illnesses brought on by difficult situations surrounding the BP oil spill may be less visible than other injuries, but they are real," APA President Carol A. Bernstein said in a statement released Friday. "An entire way of life has been destroyed."
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has repeatedly called on BP to fund mental-health care for residents affected by the accident. Depression, suicide attempts, family violence and other psychiatric and behavioral problems are on the rise in communities affected by the spill, said Michael Fitzpatrick, NAMI's executive director, in a July letter to BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles.