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Emotional scars near Mount St. Helens.

Mount St. Helens blew its top just over five years ago, and by press time it may have erupted again. But people living near the mountain are still suffering from the emotional fallout of the initial blast, report scientists at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.

In two rural logging communities near Mount St. Helens, residents suffering significant property or personal loss were nearly 12 times more likely than others to experience a psychiatric disorder, says psychiatrist James H. Shore. This complements data showing increased mental disorders and stress responses among residents of a town coated by volcanic ash after the mountain exploded (SN: 4/7/84, p. 214). Their stress reactions lasted for at least seven months.

Shore and his co-workers evaluated more than 1,000 subjects from July to October 1983. The most common psychiatric disorders were anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. Among men who suffered severe property damage or the death of a relative, 11 percent developed a psychiatric disorder in the year following the eruption, compared with 1 percent of men who were unaffected by the blast. Rates of mental disorders among women experiencing substantial property or personal loss were about twice as high as those for men. According to the residents, the intensity of their emotional reactions decreased in the second and third years after the eruption.

"In the population we studied," notes Shore, "the major psychiatric impact was caused by the flood [instigated by the eruption], not volcanic ash."
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Title Annotation:increased mental problems in nearby communities
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 1, 1985
Words:246
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