Today marks 19 years since the 9/11 attacks. This was a traumatic time for almost anyone who was living in America at the time. Most people remember where they were when they found out what was happening. I had just started 10th grade in the suburbs of New York City; I can still vividly remember the fear expressed by classmates whose parents worked in NYC. It felt like time stopped as we watched the attacks on TV.
Today is a day to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11. As we contend with a pandemic that has taken the lives of so many in our country, this is an important time to commemorate those who have died in all types of public health emergencies. Terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and pandemics are all traumatic and grief-heavy events that tend to increase mental health and substance use struggles for those who survive them.
Four to five years after the attacks, PTSD rates for those who were closely exposed to 9/11—including local residents, recovery workers, first responders, people on the street or in transit nearby—were as high as 19.1%. Of Pentagon staff who responded to a survey, nearly 27% had symptoms of anxiety in the months after the attacks. One study found that alcohol use among New Yorkers living closest to the attacks rose by 25% post-9/11.
This is consistent with increasing rates of substance use following other public health emergencies. For instance, after Hurricane Katrina, there was a 29% increase in drug use among survivors. 15% of Oklahoma City bombing survivors reported drinking alcohol to cope. About half of people seeking treatment for a Substance Use Disorder have PTSD.
The hopeful news is that PTSD and other mental health disorders can be managed; people who may have suffered severe symptoms in the past can go on to build fulfilling lives not held back by trauma. One study looked at post-traumatic stress symptoms among the general US population in the months after 9/11; 17% experienced symptoms at two months, but that number went down to 6% at three months.
The pandemic has been a hard time for many of us. The 9/11 attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic are different in many ways, but they share loss of a life on a grand scale and national (worldwide) grief. Today is a good time to commemorate the lives we’ve lost, check in with those you care about, and take care of your own mental health.
If you are struggling with PTSD or a Substance Use Disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff will help you process traumas, learn healthy ways to cope, and build a great life in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.