Background It is important not to foster unnecessary public anxiety with regard to the risk of a biochemical terrorist incident, but the authorities need to consider their response strategy, particularly with regard to mental health issues.
Aims To describe the likely effects of a terrorist incident involving biochemical agents and to identify important response issues.
Method Literature survey
Results Observations following conventional terrorist incidents and other major trauma, including biochemical and nuclear accidents, suggest that a biochemical terrorist incident would have widespread public effects. The mental health services should play a major role in designing an effective multi-disciplinary response, particularly with regard to the reduction of public anxiety, identifying at-risk individuals and collaborating with medical and emergency services, as well as providing care for those who develop post-traumatic psychopathology.
Conclusions We should not feel helpless in the face of a biochemical threat; there is considerable knowledge and experience to be tapped. A well-designed, well-coordinated and rehearsed strategy based on empirical evidence will do much to reduce public anxiety and increase professional confidence.
Declaration of interest None.
- ACUTE STRESS DISORDER
- TERM FOLLOW-UP
- BIOLOGICAL TERRORISM
- PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA