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Study finds higher rates of PTSD, depression in Flint years after city's water crisis

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
The water crisis forced many Flint residents to wait in long lines for bottled water.

A new study finds depression and other mental disorders persisted in Flint long after the city’s water crisis.

Between 2014 and 2015, the city’s drinking water became contaminated with lead, as officials tried to save money by switching Flint’s drinking water source. But the Flint River water was not properly treated.

The water crisis forced many Flint residents to wait in long lines for bottled water. Many still drink bottled water today despite government officials' assertions the tap water is safe to drink.

In 2019 and 2020, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina contacted Flint residents to see how the crisis affected their mental health.

Dean Kilpatrick is the Director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, which funded the study. He said the study found about one in four Flint residents were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and one in five from depression five years after the water crisis.

Kilpatrick said, even considering Flint’s crime and poverty, the levels are high.

“Levels of PTSD and depression among adults in Flint were substantially higher than those estimates for the state of Michigan as a whole, for the United States as a whole,” said Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick said the fact that the Flint water crisis was a man-made crisis likely worsened the effect on the mental health of Flint residents.

He added the study’s findings point to a need for greater mental health services in Flint.

The study was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.