Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry


In the fall of 1983, "The Day After," a fictional account of a nuclear attack on a civilian population, was broadcast on television in the United States and viewed by I00 million Americans . "The Day After" was said to differ from previous movie treatments of nuclear war by the vividness with which it forced its audience to experience the ground zero effects of a nuclear blast on human beings (I) . In what was described as "the most horrifically searing footage ever to pass a network censor,"the audience was shown "group immolation, a carnage of mass vaporization" and "graphic images of death" (I). It was widely predicted that this movie would have stressful psychological effects because it dealt with a potentially real disaster. Warnings of possible psychiatric side effects of the film were issued by the American Psychiatric Association , the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Broadcasting Company (1,2,3). So seriously were these warnings taken that the Federal Emergency Management Agency increased its staffing in anticipation of the movie's psychological fallout (2). After the movie was shown, however, there was little systematic documentation of its psychological effects on the public. Since similarly graphic movies addressing the effects of nuclear war continue to be released and a replanned for the future, we feel the issue of the psychological effects of these films remains salient.

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