Malignant memories. Reluctance to utilize mental health services after a disaster

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1992 Dec;180(12):767-72. doi: 10.1097/00005053-199212000-00005.


This report describes the reluctance of individuals exposed to a man-made disaster to utilize formal mental health services. Measures were obtained in an initial screening 6 months after a shooting for 24 exposed school personnel. Data from the initial screening were compared for those who did not participate in a follow-up screening 12 months later (N = 11) and those who did (N = 13). Follow-up nonparticipants reported: more posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, especially avoidance; recall of life threat during the event; feeling depressed; and an increase in positivity toward victims but not about their work or mental health professionals. The authors conclude that some individuals may avoid formal mental health services because they serve as cues for malignant memory retrieval and discuss implications for service delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Community Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cues
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*