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One-Quarter of NYC Children Got Post 9/11 Counseling

Manhattan kids whose parents suffered stress were most likely to get therapy

MONDAY, July 1, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- The impact of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City was so devastating to children living in Manhattan that nearly 25 percent of them received some sort of counseling almost immediately.

Thaat's the finding of a new peer-review study from The New York Academy of Medicine, which was based on research originally published in the New England Journal of Medicine last March. Researchers culled information from 112 parents out of a total survey of 1,008 parents who were contacted during the month following the attack on the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. The results appear in this month's issue of the journal Psychiatric Services.

One of the most significant findings was a correlation between the children who received counseling and how much stress their parents suffered. As might be expected, the more stress experienced by the parent, the more likely it was that the child would be sent for counseling.

Reseachers said the children most likely to get therapy were:

  • Those whose parents suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
  • Those whose parent(s) had a friend or relative killed;
  • Those who saw a parent crying or expressing strong emotions about the attacks.

Lead author Jennifer Stuber, a researcher in the Academy's Division of Health and Science Policy and in the Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies, said the findings gave insight into parents' motives for seeking counseling for their children. Much of it is based on the parent's reaction rather than the child's, she said. And if the parent didn't experience much anxiety or stress from the attack, some children who needed help may have missed out, she added.

"Parents have been shown to underestimate their kids' distress," Stuber said in a press release from the Academy of Medicine. "It is critical to understand how parents assess their children's mental health, because this assessment often determines whether or not children receive counseling."

The survey also gave insight into the emotional impact of the attack on all Manhattanites:

  • About one-third of the parents reported having seen some aspect of the disaster in person.
  • Ten percent of the parents said a friend or relative was killed.
  • Seventeen percent said their child knew a teacher or coach who lost someone in the disaster.

More information

This article from the National Center for PTSD offers some guidelines for helping children who may have experienced stress or trauma.

SOURCE: The New York Academy of Medicine, news release, July 1, 2002
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