Simon Wessely in his review of the Textbook of Disaster Psychiatry in the British Medical Journal this week explains that before 1980 everyone assumed that people who were mentally robust before a disaster would recover smoothly afterwards. After 1980 some argued that long term disorders could arise even in the most robust individuals. The “result was an explosion of interest and research” in post traumatic stress disorder and the belief (now recognised to have been mistaken) that everyone who experienced a disaster needed help in the form of immediate psychological interventions such as debriefing. Yet, Wessely says, lessons learnt in the second world war remain true today: people in cities bombed into submission don’t necessarily cave in. Are we so different from the British? Or is it the tort lawyers and mental health activists who push this fad in the US?