More Fallout From 9/11

Many Pentagon staffers suffered mental health problems after attack

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FRIDAY, April 16, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A mental health survey conducted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks found that about 40 percent of 4,739 Pentagon staff who responded were at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, depression, generalized anxiety or alcohol abuse.

That finding appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study, conducted by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, also found almost 21 percent of the people screened said the attacks impaired their daily functioning.

Researchers say the reported rates of distress among Pentagon personnel are comparable to rates of distress seen in other groups of people following terrorist attacks.

The survey was sent to all Pentagon military and civilian staff between October 2001 and January 2002. The 4,739 respondents represent about 25 percent of those asked to take part in the survey. Most of the respondents were male. Slightly more than 50 percent were civilian employees.

Most of the people found to be at high risk for mental health problems reported symptoms consistent with depression, panic attacks or generalized anxiety. The study found that about 8 percent were at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorders and fewer than 3 percent were at risk for alcohol abuse.

More than 50 percent of those who screened positive for high risk of mental health problems were at risk for two or more of the noted disorders.

While people at high risk of mental health problems were more likely than others to seek counseling from a mental health professional or chaplain, not all high-risk individuals tried to find help. That suggests that more needs to be done to reach these people.

"Stigma and other barriers to receiving treatment are widespread, and it is likely there are higher levels of concern about potential career consequences of mental health treatment among military or senior Department of Defense personnel than among civilian working populations," researcher Nikki Jordan said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about how to cope with traumatic events.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, April 16, 2004

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