Need for Psychiatric Outreach at Disaster

LOS ANGELES, May 31 (UPI) — A U.S. psychiatrist recommends psychiatrists be included in disaster first-response teams.

Dr. Anand Pandya of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles says Sept. 11, 2001, survivors and victims’ families have provided insight into people’s needs in the immediate aftermath of a crisis.

“When the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, it was very unusual to have psychiatrists available where the survivors were located,” Pandya said in a statement. “But we were at Ground Zero immediately after 9/11 and what we found was that people will seek psychiatric help immediately for early symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder such as insomnia and feeling disconnected or numb.”

Within 24 hours of the attack, Pandya found 268 psychiatrist volunteers began to serve 848 patients — evaluating symptoms, giving information, providing short-term medication, if needed, and referring patients to non-profit organizations and other medical professionals for follow-up care. The most commonly recorded symptoms were sleeplessness, anxiety, depression and constant, overwhelming bereavement.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, suggests psychiatrists need be put where Salvation Army and American Red Cross workers are because the need for psychiatric medical help is also immediate.

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