Terror in America: Counselling - Trauma of Victims, Witnesses and TV Viewers Can Remain for Years

By Duckworth, Lorna | The Independent (London, England), September 13, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Terror in America: Counselling - Trauma of Victims, Witnesses and TV Viewers Can Remain for Years


Duckworth, Lorna, The Independent (London, England)


TRAUMATISED VICTIMS and witnesses of the terrorist attacks on the US could take months or years to recover from the psychological impact of their ordeal.

Experts said survivors of the disaster, bereaved relatives and even those who simply watched the carnage on television could require help in coming to terms with their distressing experiences.

Dr Michael Isaac, a consultant psychiatrist at London's Maudsley Hospital and a senior lecturer at King's College in London, warned that people across the world would now be at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Anyone who has watched the pictures on TV can hardly fail to be affected by it," he said. "Once people go beyond shock they often develop post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People will re- experience the trauma through repeated nightmares or daytime flashbacks.

"They will also become extremely over-vigilant. If they hear a loud bang or aircraft flying overhead they will jump out of their skin. I think many British people will have a lot of difficulty getting these horrific images out of their minds. PTSD can go on for years - some may never get over it."

At New York hospitals, medical staff said yesterday that counselling people for delayed shock and deeper psychological damage would be a major priority. At least three hotlines to help people with mental health problems have been set up.

The American Red Cross is also offering counselling to the public and emergency services staff. "We have been preparing for something like this for quite some time - even before the Oklahoma bombing," said spokeswoman Tracy Gary.

Many aspects of the attack - including its suddenness, the terrifying scale, the sophistication of planning, the use of suicide bombers and the way it was recorded on film - will add to the mental scars.

Leslie Carrick-Smith, a psychologist and trauma specialist from Chesterfield, said: "The scale of this is bigger than anything anyone has ever seen in a lifetime.

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