Interviewee: Daniel Nguyen

Role: Workforce Development and Environmental Justice Coordinator, Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation

Date of Interview: 2/22/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Daniel Nguyen explains the impact the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster has had on the mental health of Vietnamese fisherfolk in the Versailles community. Daniel and his colleagues at the CDC have provided advocacy services since the organization's inception in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the community.


It's been very difficult, I think, just because early on, the spill, we convened with folks in Alaska to learn from past events similar to ours. And one of the things they told us is you really have to watch out for the fabric of the community because this isn't something that's going to dissolve overnight, but ten years down the line you'll start to see the fabric of the community dissolve where there's going to be high divorce rates, suicide, domestic abuse, and things like that. So this is something they're warning us, but eerily enough, it's already something that we're seeing. We've seen cases of – as the oil spill has progressed and especially with the claims process being so taxing on people, having to prove their income, having to prove their livelihood, it's just a very tedious process, and it puts a lot of stress on them, and them not being able to control when they get the money and having to wait months on end to get a claims check to even pay off a mortgage or having the prospect of going homeless, which many people have. They've gone homeless because of the oil spill, having to sell their boats and cars. We have seen a lot of mental health issues, and you have to keep in mind that mental health is a taboo in the community. So for folks to be coming out and saying these things, and for us to see the signs, means that it's really bad, for folks not to keep it on the down-low. And that's not something we want anyways, but we've seen instances where fisher-folks will tell us that they have felt suicidal. There are wives of fishermen who have come in because of the domestic violence, things like that. I mean, we've had some deaths in the community. We don't know what the cause is, so we definitely see a lot of issues that we have a lot of reason to believe are not normal and are attributed to mental health and are attributed directly to the oil spill and the stress that it's placing on the community. And it's not those just that are directly affected, but their family members or friends, their wives, and their children and things like that. So we definitely see these mental health issues, we hope that we're able to implement a program that addresses these issues and provides a venue for community members to sort of express their frustrations without having to go to another measure that might be self-destructive.

To listen to Daniel's interview, click here.