Healing Japan: Psychological Fallout Could Last Years

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Already these fears have led thousands, both foreigners and natives, to attempt to flee Japan. Trucks with aid refuse to transport supplies to areas within about an 18-mile radius of the plant, mayor of Minami Soma, a town in that region, told the Japanese broadcaster NHK. "We are being labeled as contaminated lepers," he said.

What can be done to assuage these fears?

Considering the contamination is likely to reach a large portion of Japan, "it's a very difficult situation to handle," psychiatrist Lifton says. "It would be wrong to minimize the danger, yet the actual threat ... can be terrifying."

Information about the extent of the disaster and its limitations is crucial, however, because "right now there would seem to be a combination of lack of knowledge and inclination to minimize," he says.

And lack of information only breeds confusion, panic, and anxiety.

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