Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 230–240

Was there unmet mental health need after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks?

  • Jennifer Stuber
  • Sandro Galea
  • Joseph A. Boscarino
  • Mark Schlesinger
ORIGINAL PAPER

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-005-0022-2

Cite this article as:
Stuber, J., Galea, S., Boscarino, J.A. et al. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol (2006) 41: 230. doi:10.1007/s00127-005-0022-2

Abstract

Background

This study examined the use of professionals for mental health problems among New York City residents who were directly affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) or had a probable diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression in its aftermath. Correlates of help seeking from professionals for mental health problems after the attacks and barriers to care were also assessed.

Method

Data were from a random digit dial telephone survey of 2,752 adults representative of the Greater New York Metropolitan area conducted 6 months after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Results

Fifteen percent of those directly affected and 36% of those with probable PTSD or depression sought help from a professional for a mental health problem after the attacks. There was little new utilization of professionals for mental health problems after the attacks among persons who were not already receiving care prior to September 11. Barriers that prevented people from seeking help for mental health problems 6 months after the September 11 attacks included traditional barriers to care (e.g., cost) and barriers that are unique to the post-disaster context (e.g., the belief that others need the services more than oneself).

Conclusions

This study suggests that there was potential unmet mental health need in New York City 6 months after the September 11 attacks on the WTC, but these findings should be tempered by research showing an apparent decrease in population-rates of PTSD. In the aftermath of a disaster, interventions should target persons with mental health needs who were not previously seeking help from a professional for a mental health problem.

Keywords

unmet mental health needterrorismposttraumatic stress disorderdepression

Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Stuber
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sandro Galea
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joseph A. Boscarino
    • 1
  • Mark Schlesinger
    • 5
  1. 1.The Division of Health and Science PolicyThe New York Academy of MedicineNew York
  2. 2.Robert Wood Johnson Health and SocietyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Center for Urban Epidemiologic StudiesThe New York Academy of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  5. 5.School of Epidemiology and Public HealthYale UniversityNew HavenUSA