In 1952, the U.S. Marine Corps built Marine Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to serve as a training facility for Marines and their families. But after investigating decades-old water quality issues at the base, the military learned that drinking water from wells on the property was contaminated with toxic chemicals like volatile organic compounds and other chemicals.
Drinking this polluted water could have serious health effects for residents over time, including increased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, as well as emotional impacts related to living in an unhealthy environment.
As researchers continue to investigate these impacts further, here’s what you need to know about how living at Camp Lejeune affected residents’ mental health:
The Anxiety and Stress
The anxiety and stress of not knowing the full extent of the Camp Lejeune water contamination and its effects on health can have a profound impact on mental health. Living with uncertainty about one’s health and the health of loved ones can create a constant sense of fear and worry.
Individuals may experience feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair, which can lead to depression and other mental health issues. Those affected by the contamination need to have access to reliable information and support to help manage this anxiety and stress.
The Emotional Toll of Loss
The emotional toll of losing loved ones or watching them suffer from illnesses related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination can be devastating. Family members may feel a sense of grief, guilt, and helplessness as they watch their loved ones struggle with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
The constant stress of caregiving can also lead to physical and mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. In addition, individuals may experience a sense of anger and frustration that their loved one’s illness was preventable and caused by negligence.
Affected individuals and families need to have access to emotional support, counseling, and resources to help manage the emotional toll of living with contamination-related illness.
The Need for Mental Health Support
The need for mental health support and resources for individuals and families affected by Camp Lejeune water contamination is critical. Exposure to contamination and related illnesses can have a significant impact on mental health, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Moreover, according to Verywell Health, it is common for people with cancer to feel sadness and mourn the life they had before their diagnosis. Fatigue, loss of appetite, and difficulty carrying out daily activities may also be experienced. Also, Certain cancer treatments may alter your brain chemistry and raise the risk of depression.
Counseling and therapy can help individuals cope with the emotional toll of contamination-related illness and provide support for those who have lost loved ones.
Additionally, mental health resources can help families navigate the challenges of caregiving and maintain healthy relationships. It is important for those affected to have access to mental health support and resources that are affordable, accessible, and culturally appropriate.
The Potential for PTSD
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in the United States, approximately 5% of adults experience PTSD in a given year. In 2020, around 13 million US citizens had PTSD. Women are more susceptible to developing PTSD than men, with 8 out of every 100 women (or 8%) and 4 out of every 100 men (or 4%) experiencing PTSD at some point in their lives.
Individuals who have experienced the effects of Camp Lejeune water contamination are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related disorders.
Exposure to toxic substances and the associated health consequences can be traumatic, leading to feelings of fear, helplessness, and vulnerability. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of situations or triggers that remind the individual of the traumatic event.
It is important for those affected to be aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD and to seek mental health support and resources if needed.
Raising Awareness Through the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
Raising awareness about the mental health effects of living with environmental contamination is crucial to reduce stigma and promote understanding. The Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit brought national attention to the issue and highlighted the devastating impact that exposure to environmental toxins can have on mental health.
The law firm TorHoerman Law, LLC (THL) states that individuals who resided at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from 1953 to 1987, numbering over a million, may have encountered hazardous substances in the water. The firm adds that this group comprises veterans, family members, workers, and others who may have been exposed to water contamination at the military base.
Increased awareness can also help to hold those responsible accountable and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
The Need for Ongoing Research
Ongoing research and study of the mental health effects of living with environmental contamination are essential to better inform policies and interventions. While there is growing recognition of the mental health impacts of exposure to environmental toxins, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects on mental health and well-being.
This research can help to identify risk factors, develop effective prevention and treatment strategies, and inform policies that prioritize the mental health needs of those affected.
In conclusion, the mental health effects of living with environmental contamination, such as the Camp Lejeune water contamination, can be significant and long-lasting. The anxiety, stress, sense of powerlessness, and caregiver burden can take a toll on individuals and families, leading to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Raising awareness about these effects is essential to reduce stigma, hold those responsible accountable, and promote understanding.
It is also important to prioritize ongoing research and study to better inform policies and interventions and ensure that affected individuals and families have access to the mental health support and resources they need to cope with the emotional toll of contamination-related illness.