March 16, 2011
An editorial by Distinguished Professor Evelyn Bromet, PhD, on the likely consequences of the threat of radiation exposure in Japan was published today by CNN.com. Having studied the psychological effects of the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979 and the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant incident in 1990, Dr. Bromet is in a unique position to address the question that serves as the title of her editorial, Will Japan face a mental health crisis? Her answer: “the psychological ‘fallout’ of the radiation leaks will not just be widespread. It will also be long-lasting.”
Because so much of the psychological harm caused by previous disasters resulted from the uncertainty engendered by conflicting information about health risks, Dr. Bromet recommends that government officials and physicians communicate openly and honestly with those who may have been exposed to radiation. She also suggests that mental health and physical health problems be treated with equal respect.
Dr. Bromet, a psychiatric epidemiologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University, is one of the world’s leading experts on the long-term psychological damage caused by nuclear disasters. After the Three Mile Island disaster, the National Institute of Mental Health turned to Dr. Bromet, then at the University of Pittsburgh, to study the mental health effects among survivors. In 1990, the World Health Organization invited her to participate in a study of the aftermath of the incident at Chernobyl. In February of this year, the Journal of Clinical Oncology published a 25-year retrospective review by Dr. Bromet of the lasting psychological consequences of the Chernobyl accident.
Dr. Bromet was also quoted this morning in an article in Newsday titled “Japan must cope with psychological impact,” in which she pointed out that pregnant women and mothers of young children suffer the deepest emotional scars of nuclear disasters.
March 16, 2011