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The National Institute for the Prevention of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder needs volunteer participants for a study of the emotional impact of trauma.

Participants will be asked to complete a confidential written questionnaire about their experience.The institute, based in Salt Lake City, works with public, private, commercial and government organizations to prevent debilitating emotional consequences that may follow serious injury.

"Most people will recognize the term `shell-shock' as an emotionally disabling condition suffered by war veterans," said Barry M. Richards, institute president. "In 1980, that condition was formally acknowledged and defined in the field of psychology as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Just as military personnel may be affected by traumatic experiences, the same effects can be experienced by survivors of accidents, violent crime, abuse and natural catastrophe.

New public awareness has focused on the problem with current events like the murder trial of Steven Ray Stout, whose sentence was ameliorated based on his abuse as a child. Each natural catastrophe, such as a hurricane, earthquake or airline crash leaves victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, Richards said.

As many as 10 million Americans may suffer some effects of the disorder, he said. It is a "hidden plague" not recognized by many as the source of bona fide mental or physical health problems.

Symptoms may include flashbacks, headaches, nightmares, intestinal disorders, depression, fluctuating emotional extremes and feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, abandonment, violence, anger or suicide.

Untreated, the effects may cost the country an estimated $133 billion in medical expenses, compensation and insurance benefits, lost wages, legal fees and social expenses.

Those who would like to participate in the study may request a questionnaire by contacting Richards at the National Institute for the Prevention of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, P.O. Box 7474, Salt Lake City, UT 84157, telephone 273-3943.