NYC May Face Mental Health Crisis

"The system that's in place can barely handle the severe and persistently mentally ill," North said. "Add to that the new needs [from Sept. 11], and the system can't possibly do it."

Although Siskind believes the city mental health system has been doing a "remarkable" job in handling the initial response to the crisis, he is wary of how the system will handle coming demand. Due to the economic downturn, city and state agencies are expected to face budget cuts, and financial troubles will make philanthropic support less reliable as well.

"There needs to be more thinking of long-term mental health needs," says Siskind, who is on the executive committee of the board of directors of the Coalition of Voluntary Mental Health Agencies Inc.

Despite much concern for the mental health of New Yorkers, though, trauma experts say it's important to remember how hardy communities can be. Indeed, New York has already shown the world its resilience.

"I am always amazed at what these horrible adverse events do to bring out people's strength, the altruism, the heroism," North said. "Most people after these events heal. They don't forget, they heal."

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