Mental Health of Those Directly Exposed to the World Trade Center
Disaster: Unmet Mental Health Care Need, Mental Health Treatment
Service Use, and Quality of Life

Brackbill, Robert M.; Stellman, Steven D.; Perlman, Sharon E.; Walker, Deborah J.; Farfel, Mark R.

Mental health service utilization several years following a man-made or natural disaster can be lower than expected, despite a high prevalence of mental health disorders among those exposed. This study focused on factors associated with subjective unmet mental health care need (UMHCN) and its relationship to a combination of diagnostic history and current mental health symptoms, 5–6 years after the 9-11-01 World Trade Center (WTC) disaster in New York City, USA. Two survey waves of the WTC Health Registry, after exclusions, provided a sample of 36,625 enrollees for this analysis. Important differences were found among enrollees who were categorized according to the presence or absence of a self-reported mental health diagnosis and symptoms indicative of post-traumatic stress disorder or serious psychological distress. Persons with diagnoses and symptoms had the highest levels of UMHCN, poor mental health days, and mental health service use. Those with symptoms only were a vulnerable group much less likely to use mental health services yet reporting UMHCN and poor mental health days. Implications for delivering mental health services include recognizing that many persons with undiagnosed but symptomatic mental health symptoms are not using mental health services, despite having perceived need for mental health care.

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June 4, 2014


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