Psychological challenges of bioterror: Containing contagion

Gregory Saathoff, George S. Everly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In this article, we have introduced the concept of shielding as a public mental health intervention. Shielding addresses the core elements of bioterrorism when we consider that bioterrorism is best understood as terrorism, i.e., psychological warfare, which merely employs biologic agents, not to kill, but to terrorize. It is, therefore, to some degree dependent upon widespread contagion. Shielding is not a panacea. It is one aspect of an overall response plan. Nevertheless, it represents a potentially useful "antidote" for the bioterrorist assault. Perhaps most significant among its putative mechanisms of action appears to be controlling contagion, both physical and psychological. In the final analysis, in the wake of a terrorist attack, physicians can physically immunize and treat those who require such attention. Engineers can reconstruct buildings and roads. But who rebuilds the essence of humanity which has been violently ripped away from those who suffered the terrorist attack? How do we reconstruct a belief in justice and safety in the wake of a mass terrorist attack? Without attention to mental health, i.e., the "psychological side of terrorism," we run the risk of rebuilding a nation without a spirit, without a vitality, without a sense of humanity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-252
Number of pages8
JournalInternational journal of emergency mental health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioterrorism
  • Contagion
  • Mental health
  • Shielding
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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