Study reveals mental health burden in Flint community five years after the water crisis

Data from the largest mental health survey of the community of Flint, Michigan, indicates that one in five adults, or approximately 13,600 people, is estimated to have clinical depression, and one in four people, or 15,000 people, is estimated to have some disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder Five years after developing PTSD. The water crisis has begun.

said Aaron Rubin, the postdoctoral scientist at Duke University who led the research, which appears Sept JAMA Network is open.

on April 25The tenthIn 2014, the city of Flint switched water supplies from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River and failed to properly treat the water supply to prevent lead and other elements from leaking from the city’s old water pipes. Almost all residents of Flint were as a result exposed to drinking water that contained unsafe levels of bacteria, disinfection byproducts, and lead, a nerve toxicant.

Flint’s drinking water was not declared lead-free until January 24, 2017. During the crisis, tens of thousands of children and adults in Flint developed high levels of lead in their blood, increasing their risk of cognitive deficits, mental health and other problems. Health problems later in life.

We know that large-scale natural or man-made disasters can trigger or exacerbate depression and PTSD.”

Dean Kilpatrick, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor, Department Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Medical University of South Carolina and senior author of the study

Kilpatrick noted that there was clear evidence of high rates of mental health problems in the Flint community during the early years of the crisis. “What we didn’t know until now is the extent to which Flint residents continue to suffer from mental health problems at the clinical diagnostic level five years after the crisis began.”

According to Kilpatrick, last year’s rates of depression and PTSD identified in Flint today are three to five times greater than national estimates among U.S. adults overall, and likely result from a combination of higher baseline rates of mental health problems in Flint. Before the crisis, too. as a significant exacerbation of the problems arising from the crisis.

“The vast majority of respondents were never offered mental health services, despite the clear indication that the crisis was psychologically distressing,” Rubin said. Most Flint residents who were offered mental health services continued to use and benefit from them. “Now that the tubes have been replaced, it’s time to begin a second phase of recovery from the water crisis – a phase focused on providing additional resources to treat psychological wounds,” Rubin said.

Kilpatrick said residents of Flint, a predominantly low-income black community, faced many challenges prior to the water crisis that could undermine mental health, including social and economic deprivation, racism, and significant exposure to potentially traumatic events, including physical or ex-sexual.

Particularly remarkable was the finding that those who had experienced previous physical or sexual abuse were more than three times more likely to develop depression and more than six times more likely to develop PTSD than those without such a history. “This highlights the importance of considering the cumulative effects of prior exposure to traumatic events when assessing the effects of environmental disasters on mental health,” Kilpatrick said.

Depression and PTSD are two of the most common and debilitating mental disorders, costing more than $326 billion annually in America due to lost work hours and medical care costs.

Sandro Gallia, MD, MD, Robert A. Study author. “But we also study these issues because we have good, effective treatments for most people.”

The results of the study suggest that more should be done to provide mental health treatment to Flint residents.

“There is a clear unmet need,” said Rubin, who is also a postdoctoral researcher at MUSC. “Nearly 100% of Flint residents surveyed reported that they changed their behavior to avoid consuming contaminated water during the crisis, and the vast majority remain concerned that the exposure they have had may cause future health problems for themselves or members of their family.”

According to Rubin, uncertainty about exposure and future damage contributes significantly to psychological distress after environmental disasters, and the study found that adults who thought exposure to polluted water harmed their health or the health of a loved one were more likely to have depression last year and PTSD . .

The study, funded by a MUSC grant from the US Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime, surveyed a household probability sample of 1,970 Flint adults between August 13, 2019 and April 10, 2020. The surveys were conducted online and by mail by Abt Associates, a national survey research firm. . Rothbaum was also supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (T32-MH018869)

Data were collected on perceived exposure to polluted water, prevalence of depression and PTSD in the past year using the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria, potential risk factors for depression and PTSD including prior exposure to potentially traumatic events, prior physical or sexual abuse, and low support social. . Adults also were if mental health services were provided or received.


Journal reference:

Robin, A.; et al. (2022) Prevalence of depression and PTSD in Flint, Michigan, 5 years after the onset of the water crisis. JAMA Network is open.

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