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SOME PSYCHIATRIC NOTES ON THE ANDREA DORIA DISASTER
PAUL FRIEDMAN; LOUIS LINN
Am J Psychiatry 1957;114:426-432.
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Associate Attending in Neuropsychiatry, Beth Israel Hospital, New York City.

Associate Attending Psychiatrist, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City.

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Abstract

We have presented observations concerning the phases of initial psychic shock and of recovery; prejudicies and paranoid attitudes; the problems of communications, of leadership and of children in disasters; the role of official identification lists; reactions among the Ile de France passengers; instances of perceptual distortion experienced by the latter; and various attitudes of the survivors toward personal property and toward clothing.It is our hope that these observations will be of interest and possible value to those concerned with the psychological problems of civil disasters. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 prompted major reforms and improvements in the physical aspects of safe navigation. Our psychological exploration of the Andrea Doria disaster, unsystematic though it be, points to avenues of further study into the following areas:(a) Our notes on the role of prejudice in the development and resolution of crisis might merit the attention of the World Federation for Mental Health in its program for the prevention of social and individual emotional disorder through the systematic search for tension-reducing techniques. Our observations also emphasize the importance of paranoid reactions which are apt to arise in crises and to intensify conditions of chaos.(b) The Andrea Doria experience points up the fallacy that all disaster training must be based on the expectation of nuclear warfare. Men of leadership caliber who shy away from preparations for atomic attack might participate more wholeheatedly in programs which emphasize training for such peacetime disasters as may befall anyone.(c) The introduction of leadership devices that are based on established psychological needs. In our discussion of the "women and children first" principle we pointed out the desirability of having at least one parent accompany the child. The need for such practice has been amply demonstrated during previous crises in recent history. The importance of a speedy method of collecting and publishing survivor identification lists in disasters has also been established as a major device designed to aid survivors in maintaining their identify and to alleviate the traumatic content of their experiences.The authors do not attempt to draw any general conclusions on human nature from the Andrea Doria catastrophe. But they do believe that the introduction of modern psychiatric principles in these areas will effect progress in important aspects of human welfare.

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