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NIMH Awards New Grants in Response to Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001

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Press Release

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has awarded new grants for research on mental health needs resulting from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. NIMH funded these studies through its Rapid Assessment Post Impact of Disaster (RAPID) grants program, which solicits and expedites pilot projects.

"It is important to learn what we can from these terrible tragedies, and the RAPID grants program has helped us do that for many years," said Richard Nakamura, Ph.D., acting NIMH director."These new grants and supplements to on-going studies will provide research to help prepare us to address mental health consequences of future disasters, and reduce suffering."

The NIMH RAPID grants program funds small projects that promise, in a relatively short time frame, to yield information helpful to the design of large-scale studies on prevention and treatment of mental illnesses resulting from exposure to mass violence.

RAPID grants were awarded to:

  • David Vlahov, Ph.D., and Gerry Fairbrother, Ph.D., at the New York Academy of Medicine, to conduct surveys of the New York metropolitan area to determine what effects the 9/11 attacks have had on symptoms, mental disorders, and use of mental health services.
  • Rose Zimering, Ph.D., at Boston VA, to assess post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in clinicians who treated survivors of the attacks.
  • Cynthia Pfeffer, M.D., at Cornell University/New York Presbyterian Hospital, to examine whether major acute stress from the death of a child's parent is associated with increased activity in stress hormones, symptoms of psychiatric disability, and physical growth.
  • Charles Marmar, M.D., at San Francisco VA Medical Center, to compare the effects of brief cognitive behavioral therapy to the usual treatment for New York City disaster relief workers with full or sub-threshold PTSD diagnoses related to the World Trade Center (WTC) terrorist attacks.

In addition, NIMH has awarded six supplemental grants to existing studies so that the investigators can gather new information specific to the 9/11 events.

Supplemental grants have been awarded to:

  • Hector Bird, M.D., at New York Psychiatric Institute, who is conducting a longitudinal study of mental health of Hispanic boys and girls and their caregivers, will use the supplemental grant to focus on levels of child and caregiver symptoms of depression, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders, before and after the 9/11 events; changes in patterns of service use and expressed need for services.
  • Edna Foa, Ph.D., and Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., at the University of Pennsylvania and Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who are involved in a collaborative study of the effects of different treatments on PTSD symptoms in patients with chronic PTSD. The supplement will help to understand differences in psychobiology between chronic cases of PTSD and those occurring in the immediate aftermath of a trauma.
  • Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., at New York University, who has been studying how stress can trigger mental disorders, will conduct neuroimaging studies of changes in the brain following the WTC terrorist attacks. This research is expected to generate new tools for testing people with anxiety/fear-related disorders, providing windows into more effective prevention and treatment.
  • Daphne Simeon, M.D., at Mt Sinai School of Medicine, will include survivors of the WTC attacks in an ongoing New York-based study of psychobiological factors thought to determine whether trauma exposure results in PTSD or a dissociative disorder. Findings are expected to improve understanding of neurobiological malfunction resulting from traumatic stress and help to design different types of prevention, early intervention, and long-term treatment.
  • Joann Difede, Ph.D., at New York Presbyterian Hospital, is studying an intervention to prevent chronic PTSD in adult burn patients, many of whom were rescued from the WTC on 9/11. The supplement will enable Difede's team to expand their research to include most survivors of the WTC attacks.
  • Jerrold Rosenbaum, M.D., at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, who is studying children at risk for anxiety disorders based on a range of individual vulnerability and environmental factors, will select a sub-sample from this group to study the effects of various degrees of exposure to the 9/11 events.

As of June, 2002, additional grants and supplements have been awarded to:

  • Carol North, M.D., at Washington University, St Louis, to estimate rates of psychiatric disorders, symptoms, and distress after anthrax exposure, threats/ hoaxes, and related stresses on Capitol Hill. Researchers will use systematic research methodology to compare this data to similar data from the Oklahoma City bombing and other disasters.
  • Ellen Devoe, Ph.D., at Columbia University, to work with a network of day care and early childhood centers to document the complexities of young children's responses to the events of 9/11, with an emphasis on social-emotional and behavioral functioning, and traumatic stress reactions. The responses of caregivers, including parents and daycare providers, will also be studied.
  • Mary Ann Dutton, Ph.D., at Georgetown University, to explore the effects of varying levels of indirect media exposure to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the well-being of battered women involved in an ongoing study.
  • Mark Pollack, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, to examine risk factors for the emergence of PTSD symptoms in vulnerable individuals as a result of indirect and direct trauma. The investigators will study the impact of the terrorist attacks on bipolar patients within the ongoing evaluation of an outpatient population of bipolar patients, the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD). For more information on STEP-BD, click here.
  • Brett Litz, Ph.D., at Boston VA Medical Center to evaluate an abbreviated, primary care-based format of Cognitive Behavior Therapy designed to provide effective self-management skills to individuals with PTSD.
  • Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, Ph.D. at the University of California Los Angeles and Mary Jo Ward, Ph.D., at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University to evaluate stress-related risk behavior and mental health outcomes among youth with pre-existing stressors.

NIMH supports a number of national health and mental health surveys that will provide a snapshot of mental health in the U.S. before and after the 9/11 terrorist acts, including information about the associations between exposure to the attacks and levels of overall distress and function, mental disorder onset or recurrence, medication use, substance use, and need and use of mental health services. Results of these benchmark surveys will aid in developing future studies that explore the causes and treatment of stress-related mental disorders. In addition, researchers will be able to test hypotheses generated from case-control studies within these larger, representative samples.

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About the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the NIMH website.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit the NIH website .