City Health Information
Volume 33 (2014) New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene No. 1; 1-8



Diagnosing and Managing the Mental Health
Needs of Adults Exposed to Disaster
  • Educate patients about physical and emotional symptoms of normal stress reactions.
  • Ask patients about their exposure and reactions to disaster.
  • Identify patients who may have posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or a substance use disorder and use standard screening tools for further evaluation.
  • Encourage patients to take advantage of psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, or both.



Some patients with trauma-related mental health disorders will need specialty care. Refer patients to a mental health professional if they

  • have a history of psychotic or manic symptoms, suicidal ideation, or attempts,
  • display severe symptoms or functional impairment,
  • have multiple psychiatric comorbidities,
  • have a significant history of somatization of psychological problems,
  • are not responding to standard treatment,
  • have complex psychopharmacologic needs,
  • are difficult to engage in treatment or have difficulties following up with previously agreed-to treatment plans,
  • live in highly unstructured environments.


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