Experts Say Some People Are Paranoid About Anthrax Threats

A land survey class worked on the front yard at Gulf Coast Community College's Jeff Davis campus. The students are future engineers. They've all heard about recent anthrax scares that local authorities had to investigate. In fact, some of the students discussed the threats before class.

Keith Harper's opinion of the anthrax situation is that "every nut case that's out there is going to use it as a reason to just scare people."

George Scarfe said the threats didn't worry him because, "I'm not in the media, so I don't think it will affect me. I think they're targeting the media."

On Monday, Gulf Coast Community College had its first anthrax scare. Community College President Dr. Willis Lott said an employee at the Perkinston campus found a white powdery substance in Huff Hall. "You have to treat them all as potential anthrax cases," Dr. Lott said. "And we certainly don't think we're a target, but you never know."

Mental health professionals say that because of the anthrax threats, the bombings in Afghanistan, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, people have a lot more anxiety right now. In the next couple of months, many of those people will turn to mental health experts to calm nerves, and help make sense out of this crisis.

Vickie McAuley is the director of social services at Gulf Oaks Hospital. He said, "I think a lot of people are feeling the anxiety, but they're maybe not connecting it to what's going on with the terrorist attacks and all of the fallout from that."

One of the land survey students said if he saw powder right now, he'd get away from it and call authorities. Then Mike Krauss was asked what he would have done if he saw a white powdery substance a month ago. Krauss said, "I probably wouldn't have thought nothing about it."

But anthrax, and before that terrorism, have changed the way many students and many Americans live their lives.

Mental health experts say the longer the anthrax crisis drags on, the busier they'll get. That's because it often takes a couple of months for people to react to situations that raise their anxiety levels.