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.
Cite this paper
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
 Blaszczynski, A., Huynh, S., Dumlao, V. J., & Farrell, E. (1998). Problem gambling within a Chinese speaking community. Journal of Gambling Studies, 14, 359-380.http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1023073026236
 Bloor, M., Frankland, J., Thomas, M., & Robson, K. (2001). Focus groups in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
 Courtois, C. A., & Ford, J. D. (2009). Treating complex traumatic stress disorders: An evidence-based guide. New York, NY: Guilford.
 Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW (1999). Gambling among members of ethnic communities in Sydney (GAMECS) project part 3— Report on problem gambling and ethnic communities forum.http://www.olgr.nsw.gov.au/pdfs/ECC_%20Forum.pdf
 Kalibatseva, Z., & Leong, F. T. L. (2011). Depression among Asian Americans: Review and recommendations. Depression Research and Treatment, 2011, 9 p.http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2011/320902
 Kaplan, A. S., & Huynh, U. K. (2008). Working with Vietnamese Americans in disasters. In A. J. Marsella, J. L. Johnson, P. Watson, & J. Gryczynski (Eds.). Ethnocultural perspectives on disasters and trauma (pp. 321-349). New York: Springer.
 Legerski, J.-P., Vernberg, E. M., & Noland, B. J. (2012). A qualitative analysis of barriers, challenges, and successes in meeting the needs of Hurricane Katrina evacuee families. Community Mental Health Journal, 48, 729-740.http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10597-011-9446-1
 Mollica, R. F., Wyshak, G., & Lavelle, J. (1990). Assessing symptom change in Southeast Asian refugee survivors of mass violence and torture. American Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 83-88.
 Mumford, D. B. (1992). Detection of psychiatric disorders among Asian patients presenting with somatic symptoms. British Journal of Hospital Medicine, 47, 202-204.
 News-Basics (2010). Oil spill in the gulf. http://news-basics.com/2010/oil-spill-in-the-gulf/
 Ngo, D., Tran, T. V., Gibbons, J. L., & Oliver, J. M. (2001). Acculturation, premigration, traumatic experiences, and depression among Vietnamese Americans. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 3, 225-242.http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J137v03n03_14
 Nguyen, A.-M.T.D., & Benet-Martínez, V. (2013). Biculturalism and adjustment: A meta-analysis. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44, 122-159.http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022022111435097
 Nguyen, T. A. (2011). The Vietnamese population in the United States: 2010.http://www.bpsos.org/mainsite/images/DelawareValley/community_profile/
 Norris, F. H., Van Landingham, M. J., & Vu, L. (2009). PTSD in Vietnamese Americans following Hurricane Katrina: Prevalence, patterns, and predictors. Journal of Trauma and Stress, 22, 91-101.http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jts.20389
 Okafor, M. T., Carter-Pokras, O. D., Picot, S. J., & Zhan, M. (2013). The relationship of language acculturation (English proficiency) to current self-rated health among African immigrant adults. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 15, 499-509.http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10903-012-9614-6
 Oval Office (2010). Remarks by the president to the nation on the BP oil spill.http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-nation-bp-oil-spill
 Palinkas, L. A. (2012). A conceptual framework for understanding the mental health impacts of oil spills: Lessons from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Psychiatry, 75, 203-222.http://dx.doi.org/10.1521/psyc.2012.75.3.203
 Petry, N. M., Armentano, C., Kuoch, T., Norinth, T., & Smith, L. (2003). Gambling participation and problems among South East Asian refugees to the United States. Psychiatric Services, 54, 1142-1148.http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.54.8.1142
 Teodorescu, D.-S., Heir, T., Hauff, E., Wentzel-Larsen, T., & Lien, L. (2012). Mental health problems and post-migration stress among multi-traumatized refugees attending outpatient clinics upon resettlement to Norway. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 53, 316-332.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9450.2012.00954.x
 US Committee for Refugees (1984). Vietnamese boat people: Pirates’ vulnerable prey. Washington DC: American Council for Nationalities Service.
 Wikipedia (2013,) Hurricane Katrina.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina