The Terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon could affect the mental health of Americans over coming weeks and months. As the dust settles over New York and Washington, psychiatrists warn that people will start to feel the full psychological impact of the disaster. Keeping busy and trying to get the cities back to normal keeps anxiety and grief at bay. And the sheer scale of the tragedy has engendered a kind of emotional numbness in many but this will wear off in time. It would not just be those directly involved in the crisis that are affected - many millions more have been traumatised by exposure to the events of last Tuesday through the media.
In New York City, hospitals are responding to the need for counselling and support by setting up walk-in clinics and rapid response teams. Dr Michael Faenza, head of the National Mental Health Association in Washington DC, says that he expects the prevalence of mental health disorders among Americans to rise over coming months and hopes the health services will have the resources to cope. An increase in anxiety disorders is the most likely outcome - symptoms such as disturbed sleep, excessive worrying, and a retreat into smoking or drinking more may be early warnings that you might need help in coming to terms with these tragic events.