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NYC Health Dept. highlights risk of mental health disorders following disasters

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Primary care providers need to work to identify and treat disaster-related mental health disorders, according to a new report released by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Tuesday morning.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggests that providers screen and treat patients for the four most prevalent trauma-related mental health disorders — post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder and substance abuse disorders — citing disasters such as the September 11, 2001 attacks and Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

"Some New Yorkers will experience mental health problems as a result of their exposure to traumatic events," the report read. "Primary care providers are often the first point of care for patients with disaster-related mental health disorders and have a unique opportunity to identify these patients and manage their care."

Roughly 75 percent of people directly exposed to a disaster will experience mild and fleeting psychological distress, according to the report. Twenty percent to 40 percent will experience more sustained distress that gets worse following the events and 0.5 percent to 5 percent will develop one or more long-term mental health disorders.

People between the ages of 40 and 60, women, people with a history of exposure to trauma, people with psychiatric and medical disorders and people who have a low socioeconomic status are among those who have a greater risk of developing a mental disorder following a disaster, the report added. The risk is also higher for older adults and children.

Risk factors stemming from disaster-related events include severe exposure, severe initial stress reaction, injury, personal loss, a major disruption in the individual's neighborhood or community and the individual contributing to rescue or recovery efforts.