Members of the district branches in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts were on the front lines in the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks assisting families of victims and rescue workers in New York City (Psychiatric News, October 19). In addition, the Washington Psychiatric Society also provided assistance in the Washington, D.C. area (Psychiatric News, October 5 and 19).
The effects of the attacks, however, were not limited to those states. The district branches below also helped their communities cope with the impact of the tragedy.
This report is based on information submitted by APA’s district branches by October 19. If there are other district branches that responded to the crisis and are not included here, they may forward their information by e-mail to Pnews@psych.org or by fax at (202) 682-6031. District branches that have undertaken activities in response to bioterrorism are also asked to contact the newspaper.
• Arizona Psychiatric Society organized a campaign with area schools to have children write letters and poems and draw pictures to express their feelings of support for those who have lost loved ones in the disaster. APS will ensure the materials are shipped to the appropriate district branch or APA representative for distribution. Also under way is an effort to solicit volunteer child and adolescent psychiatrists to speak at churches and schools.
• Colorado Psychiatric Society and the Colorado Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Society joint Disaster Task Force has been involved in responding to the attacks. CPS members have developed a resource available to national organizations. Members can use the resource, titled "The Process of Recovery," when giving talks to community groups on responses to trauma, PTSD symptoms, and the road to recovery. CPS is planning to hold a group debriefing for members at its town hall meeting next month.
• Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association appointed the Ad Hoc Response Task Force to determine GPPA’s role in the public health sector in responding to widespread disasters.
• The Hawaii Psychiatric Medical Association held a training session with other mental health organizations on crisis-management issues titled "Beyond the Blues." The immediate past president spoke about dealing with traumatic crises to United Self Help, a mental health coalition. In addition, some HPMA members are collaborating with the military on a disaster and humanitarian response team.
• Illinois Psychiatric Society members offered their assistance to the New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., district branches. IPS joined with the Illinois Mental Health Coalition to work on a disaster relief and planning initiative. IPS members volunteered to provide free sessions to individuals struggling with the September 11 tragedy. Materials and resources have been posted on the IPS Web site and will be updated. The coalition met last month with the Red Cross and the state branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
• Minnesota Psychiatric Society members have staffed local phone banks offering grief counseling and reassurance to citizens, been interviewed by the media, and worked with news media to develop stories about the psychological consequences of disasters. The MPS Disaster Preparedness Committee is working with the Red Cross to train psychiatrists willing to volunteer their services in their own communities. The committee chair conducted grand rounds at the Mayo Clinic last month on the psychological effects of trauma.
• North Carolina Psychiatric Association members staffed crisis telephone lines at a Raleigh television station and participated in media interviews. Other NCPA members responded to media inquiries in their hometowns or volunteered to go to schools to talk to students about their reactions. NCPA also collaborated with state health and mental health organizations to set up a helpline that people can call for information and referrals for professional help.
• Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society offered to assist the New York County District Branch and worked with the state medical society to identify psychiatrists willing to help in New York and Washington, D.C. Its members fielded calls from the media about the psychological effects of trauma, and members of its Committee on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry developed an article for the media on children’s reactions to trauma and how to help them cope.
The Philadelphia Chapter organized a list of local members willing to provide discounted counseling sessions to affected residents and compiled a list of resources for the media. The chapter’s president-elect wrote an article for the state medical society publication on the mental health effects of trauma and how to minimize them.
• South Carolina Psychiatric Association members joined with the Greenville Hospital System and the local NBC affiliate station to hold a community forum to dramatize the widespread psychological impact of the disaster and discuss aspects of the tragedy.
• Southern California Psychiatric Society’s Disaster Committee partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to provide volunteers in the community. A free symposium titled "Terror Trauma: Treatments and Treaters" will be held this month; it is being cosponsored by SCPS and four psychoanalytic groups. A symposium scheduled for next month, titled "The Trauma of Terror in Children," will be cosponsored by SCPS’s Child Committee and the Southern California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
• Psychiatric Society of Virginia members offered to provide counseling and made its disaster committee available to respond to inquiries.
A few societies that were featured in the October 19 issue of Psychiatric News have also participated in other activities since that issue went to press.
• The New York State Psychiatric Association has been working with the Disaster Psychiatry Outreach to help find psychiatrists to work at the Pier 94 Family Assistance Center in Manhattan. The NYSPA president worked as a clinical director there and was part of the mental health team that briefed the staff at ABC News on anthrax.
• The New Jersey Psychiatric Association has received an APA Erich Lindemann Disaster Support Grant to continue its disaster response. The New York County District Branch and the Washington Psychiatric Society also received the grants. The NJPA’s recent newsletter contained articles by members about their volunteer work and thought-provoking editorials on the tragedy. NJPA has established a Disaster Response Network of members willing to provide free counseling and talk to groups on the effects of the disaster and how to cope. Members willing to participate should call the NJPA office at (800) 345-0143 or (908) 685-0650. The New Jersey Psychiatric Association sponsored a dinner lecture on the psychodynamics of terrorism last month.
• The Greater Long Island Psychiatric Society provided U.S. Customs with the names of members available to assist in crisis intervention, partnered with the Mental Health Association to provide speakers at community programs in Long Island, provided consultation services to Merrill Lynch employees through its EAP, and organized two seminars on psychotherapeutic interventions for disaster victims in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The seminars were made available to all physicians in the Vitra Health Care network, members of the Nassau and Suffolk County Medical societies, and staff of St. Catherine of Siena Hospital.
District branch members also volunteered through the Disaster Psychiatry Outreach for shifts at the Pier 94 Family Assistance Center set up by the American Red Cross and volunteered to provide counseling services to firefighters who lost colleagues in the attacks.
The New Jersey Psychiatric Association, Greater Long Island Psychiatric Society, New York County District Branch, West Hudson Psychiatric Society, North Carolina Psychiatric Association, Minnesota Psychiatric Society, Illinois Psychiatric Society, and Arizona Psychiatric Society have disaster-related materials posted on their Web sites and are linked to APA’s Web site at www.psych.org/other_orgs/district.cfm. The Web site of the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society is www.papsych.org. ▪