Trauma is acquired after having experienced or being exposed to a certain “world-shaking” event that has tremendous effect in one’s life. The day was September 11, 2001. Except from God and the brainers of the tragic event, who among the victims or the public would know what was supposed to happen? Simply put, September 11, 2001 was supposed to be just one of the ordinary days. To everyone’s surprise, this day had changed the lives of many humans—directly or indirectly affected. How are the victims today? How are we today?
Effects of the 9-11: How Are the Victims?
The Infinite Mind public radio series and the American Psychological Association had commissioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to conduct a survey among 1,900 Americans about the effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks, specifically on the mental health aspect. The survey took place on January 30 – February 2, 2002. The results were featured on the two-hour radio program on The Infinite Mind on February 2002. One of the findings shows that 16 percent of Americans were depressed as a direct result of the September 11 attacks. In numbers, about 8 million Americans were depressed due the event. (APA Online, 2002)
The survey was conducted four months after the attacks. The number 8 million is quite huge. Just imagine that there were about 8 million Americans who were depressed because of the September 11 event.
What were the immediate effects of the September 11 attacks? In the travel industry, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, more than 500,000 employees lost their employment because domestic air flights were cancelled several days after the attacks. For this reason also, the air travel volume decreased because business-related trips were cancelled. Many establishments such as malls, restaurants, and movie theaters had also ceased their operations specifically those living near the vicinity of the tragedy (Soong, 2002). Literally speaking, who would want to conduct business in such an area? And who would still have the guts to spend time in malls, restaurants, and movie theaters during those times?
On the personal level, how were the people after the September 11 attacks? According to a report, 30 percent of those living in New York had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as sleeping disorders, alienation or estrangement, and depression six months following the attacks (Soong, 2002). This report had agreed with the survey stated in the first paragraph that many Americans were depressed because of the attacks.
The New York City Health department had released on September 10, 2008 their study on the health effects of the September 11 attacks among the 71,437 enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry. According to the study, two to three years after the attacks, psychological trauma and new respiratory problems advanced among those enrolled in the registry. Specifically according to the study, 3 percent of the adult enrollees had developed new asthma, 16 percent had PTSD, and 8 percent had severe psychological distress. The study was published in the Journal of Urban Health. (Preidt, 2008)
On another report, the impact of proximity to the place of the attacks was assessed to provide data for the amygdala activity in response to viewing fearful and calm faces. Amygdala is part of the limbic system that is important in motivational and emotional behavior of humans. There were 22 healthy individuals who participated in the study that was conducted between 41 and 48 months after the September 11 attacks. The study showed that more than three years after the attacks, the bilateral amygdala activity (fearful vs. calm faces) were higher in individuals who were living within 1.5 miles of the place of attack compared to those who were living more than 200 miles away from the place of the attack. The study also showed that there was an increase in the amygdala activity from high intensity trauma. In this case, the recovery occurs many years after the traumatic experience. (Ganzel, et.al, 2007)
The study developed by Ganzel’s group just proven that highly traumatic experiences have long and slow recovery period. The September 11 attacks were really a traumatic event not only to those living in the places of the attacks but to the whole world in general. Being a powerful country, many could not believe that it was possible for America to experience such an event. Months after the tragic event, 40 percent of those living in New York said that they got nervous when they hear sirens or see airplanes (APA Online, 2002).
The intensity of the attack was also a factor in determining the mental health of the victims. Many people from New York were reported to feel depressed compared to those living in Washington, D.C. Twenty-seven percent of Americans living in New York had reported feeling more depressed after the attacks than at other times of their lives compared to Washington, D.C.’s 16 percent. Nine percent of Americans in New York reported to have symptoms related to depression compared to Washington, D.C.’s 3 percent. For symptoms related to anxiety, 6 percent for New York and 1 percent for Washington, D.C. For symptoms related to post-traumatic stress, 12 percent was for New York; 3 percent for Washington, D.C. (APA Online, 2002)
The tragic had caused the Americans to reexamine their life and their lifestyle. They are focusing now on what is important. About 77 percent of Americans had tried to simplify their lives and focus on what really matters. Seventy-one percent of Americans had spent more time trying to gain perspective on their lives (APA Online, 2002).
The effects of the September 11 attacks have mostly targeted the victims’ mental and emotional aspects. Fear of the attack had caused victims to worry a lot causing depression to set in. To those who were directly affected, to those who had seen the actual event, we can say that recovery is a very long process. People exposed to such tragic events need proper medication in order to restore his or her healthy perspective of life.
The memories of the September 11 attacks were already a part of the history. These memories were sad, fearful, and depressing, yet we need to move on. The victims need to move on. We need to help them move on.
On September 11, 2008 the whole world was again reminded of what happened 7 years ago. How are the victims now? Have they recovered? How far off is a healthy lifestyle to them?
Many Americans Still Feeling Effects of September 11th; Are Reexamining Their Priorities in Life. (2002). APA Online. Retrieved October 02, 2008, from www.apa.org/practice/poll_911.htm
Ganzel, B., et.al. (2007). The Aftermath of 9/11: Effect of Intensity and Recency of Trauma on Outcome. American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 02, 2008 from www.apa.org/journals/releases/emo72227.pdf
Preidt, R. (2008). 9/11’s Health Effects Lingered for Years. Medline Plus. Retrieved October 02, 2008, from www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_69134.html
Soong, Roland. (2002). 9/11 Effects in the USA. Zona Latina’s Home Page. Retrieved October 02, 2008, from www.zonalatina.com/Zldata248.htm