Local expert says Flint mental health study ‘wasn’t a surprise’

Local expert says Flint mental health study ‘wasn’t a surprise’
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 3:37 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) - A study conducted by the Medical University of South Carolina found about one in four Flint residents had PTSD, and one in five dealt with depression five years after the on-set of the Flint water crisis. Genesee Health System CEO Dan Russell says the study confirms what he’s seen in Flint firsthand.

“The study probably wasn’t a surprise to those of us that have been in this and close to it from the beginning,” Russell said. “When the water crisis first started, we saw an uptick in individuals, but we weren’t necessarily hearing people say, ‘this is because of the water crisis.’ I think as time has gone on, people are now able to say, ‘I think this might be due to the water crisis.’”

Russell said it’s important to know the signs of a potential concern.

“Just kind of an overall feeling,” Russell said. “You have trouble sleeping. You have trouble eating. Things that you used to enjoy doing, you no longer do, whatever that might be, a sport, or a hobby. Certainly relationships always take a hit during these kinds of issues.”

Increased use of alcohol or other substances is another thing to look out for. If that sounds like something you or someone you care about is experiencing, Russell says you should reach out for help.

“The important thing is to find somebody that you trust, that you can talk to, and that you feel comfortable with,” Russell said.

Russell was quick to point out Flint’s water crisis isn’t over. He said the water crisis, coupled with the pandemic, can make it tough on the mental health of residents.

“I think it’s possible with the water crisis compounded by COVID, that unfortunately this is going to last for a while,” he said.

The survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association included more than 1,900 adults in Flint who lived through the crisis. Study authors say the findings suggest Flint residents may need expanded mental health services to meet their needs. It also recommended national disaster preparedness and response programs should consider psychiatric outcomes.

You can read the study in its entirety here.