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Special Focus:  Mental Health, Substance Abuse, & Terrorism

Need For Mental Health Services in US

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Published On: September 15, 2001          Updated On: September 15, 2001
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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Need For Mental Health Services in US 
Expected to Mushroom

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Sept 13 - The psychological effects of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are just beginning to be felt, and will grow in the coming weeks, mental health experts say.

To aid victims and their families and friends, psychiatric departments of New York City hospitals have mobilized crisis response teams and opened walk-in clinics. Some are forming therapy groups for people affected by the tragedy. Mental health professionals are volunteering their services, and some of the corporations hardest-hit by the attack have created assistance programs for the families of missing employees.

Lenox Hill Hospital, on Manhattan's East side, opened a walk-in clinic providing counseling services on Wednesday. "Yesterday we had very few people come in — I'm not that surprised," said Dr. Jonathan Silver, assistant director for clinical services research in the hospital's Department of Psychiatry. "I think a lot of it hasn't set in yet."

"By no means has everyone been a direct witness," said Dr. Molly Poag, assistant director for education in the hospital's psychiatry department. Some had been traumatized "through the media, through knowing about it, through smelling the smoke," she explained.

The need for mental health services will grow, she added. "The challenge is to get practitioners where they're needed and to do that in the most coordinated way possible."

The full weight of the disaster and the extent of lost life will probably not be felt until the city gets back to normal, Dr. Silver said. "New York has dealt with this by doing things. There's going to be a time when there's no more that we can do...we may start feeling more isolated, more hopeless."

"People are going to develop anxiety disorders," Dr. Silver added. "It's not just going to be nightmares and flashbacks that people are going to have."

In fact, said Michael M. Faenza, head of the National Mental Health Association in Washington, DC, it is likely that the prevalence of mental illness among children and adults throughout the nation will rise in the wake of the attack. Also, Faenza said he fears that the United States does not have the mental health infrastructure in place to cope with this increase.

 

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