Addressing mental health needs
The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon and the dissemination of anthrax in 2001 led to several different types of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anxiety was further increased by perceived threats of additional terrorist attacks—a goal of psychological warfare.
Studies of the mental health effects of earthquakes may be relevant to the September 11 terrorist acts. 1–3Earthquakes bear similarity to the WTC attack because they have an epicenter of destruction, and those in the area are traumatized by their experience and have realistic concerns about recurring events. Depression tends to persist because losses are permanent, while anxiety wanes as life returns to normal and disasters do not recur.
The first part of this chapter considers the challenges that terrorism poses to mental health, as well as the deficiencies and strengths in the mental health system that were highlighted by the terrorist acts of 2001. The second part of this chapter offers a preliminary list of recommendations for possible future terrorist acts and threats.
Terrorism is a mental health term. A terrorist is one who seeks to terrify victims. Terror involves sheer fear of specific, awful things that can happen; and