Psychiatric disorders in rescue workers after the Oklahoma City bombing

Carol S North, Laura Tivis, J. Curtis McMillen, Betty Pfefferbaum, Edward L. Spitznagel, Jann Cox, Sara Nixon, Kenneth P. Bunch, Elizabeth M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

253 Scopus citations


Objective: Psychiatric disorders were studied in a volunteer group of 181 firefighters who served as rescue/recovery workers after the Oklahoma City bombing. Method: Approximately 34 months after the disaster, the authors retrospectively assessed psychopathology both before and after the bombing with the Diagnostic interview Schedule. Findings for male rescue workers were compared with those of male primary victims who had been in the direct path of the blast and who had been assessed with the same instrument. Results: The prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder related to the bombing was significantly lower in male rescue workers (13%) than in male primary victims (23%). High rates of alcohol disorders (postdisaster: 24%; lifetime: 47%) were seen among all rescue workers, with virtually no new cases occurring after the bombing. Conclusions: The resilience seen in firefighters may be related to their career selection, their preparedness and experience, the fewer injuries they suffered, and postdisaster mental health interventions. However, alcohol disorders were endemic before the disaster, indicating a need for ongoing programs targeting this problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-859
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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