Public Release: 

Terrorism and mental health focus of NIMH-funded study

$2.2 million awarded to Kent State collaboration

Kent State University

Kent, Ohio -- The Summa Health System-Kent State University Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress and the University of Haifa's Center for National Security Studies have been awarded a four-year, $2.25 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the impact of terrorism. The goal of the study is to reveal important lessons about people's vulnerability and resiliency in the face of a terrorist attack.

The study will be conducted in three parts and will focus on the nation of Israel and its citizens. The first part is a series of cross-sectional polling (Jews and Arabs) of mental health during a three year period. Part two is an analysis of 1,500 Israelis over a multi year period to determine how their mental health is impacted by terrorism. The final portion of the study is a small scale clinical review of 100-150 Jews and Arabs conducted with in-depth clinical interviews.

"Summa Health System, Kent State University and the University of Haifa are all to be commended for earning this grant," said Stevan Hobfoll, Ph.D., Kent State distinguished professor of psychology and director, Summa-KSU Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress. "This study represents the largest prospective examination of how people are impacted by ongoing terrorism, and its findings will have important implications for the mental health not only of Israelis, but for people around the world."

The study has multiple goals, including:

  • To further theoretical and empirical understanding of the psychological impact of ongoing terrorism on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression
  • To identify whether psychological resistance resources (self-efficacy and social support) have diminished capacity for limiting the negative impact of terrorism over time and multiple terrorism events (to examine the process of diminished reserve capacity)
  • To determine whether vulnerability factors (prior trauma exposure, lower education, prior psychiatric history, minority status, immigrant status, poverty) increasingly exacerbate the impact of ongoing terrorism (whether they act in an increasingly more negative fashion as threat and loss mount)
  • To identify and study the role of defensive coping responses, such that those exposed to terrorism may become prejudicial toward ethnic or religious minorities that they associate with terrorism and even advocate extreme political violence against those people and political bodies they associate with terrorism
  • To examine whether the public tends to become accustomed to attack when they encounter repeated terrorism, such that they recalibrate what is a severe attack, becoming less affected by attacks that previously would have been perceived as severe
  • To examine how geographical proximity and social proximity (being part of the same social group as the victims) impact people's reactions to terrorism.

"I look forward to participating in this study because of the potential positive impact its outcome can have on people throughout the world," said Joseph Varley, M.D., chairman of Summa's Department of Psychiatry. "We continue to see events that impact the mental health of many innocent people. However, through this study, there is hope that we will discover new means to help those in need cope with the events surrounding them."


The study is being led at the Summa-Kent State Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress by Hobfoll and Varley. It's being headed at Haifa's Center for National Security Studies by Daphna Canetti-Nisim, Ph.D., and Gabriel Ben-Dor, Ph.D.

About the Center:
The mission of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress is to develop and conduct a center of excellence at Summa Health System's Department of Psychiatry in conjunction with Kent State University. The Center is dedicated to the treatment and investigation of traumatic stress and its consequences. Through its work, the Center will have regional, national and international impact in the advance of the science of traumatic stress and on the well-being of people affected by traumatic events.

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