As we approach the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, officials say that thousands of people are still healing from the devastation of ten years ago. According to the New York Times, ten thousand people — firefighters, police officers and civilians — who were exposed to the attacks have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many have yet to recover.
These thousands of people suffer from nightmares, insomnia, difficulty concentrating and jitteriness. They overreact to alarms or loud noises, and replay the events of the day over and over again in their minds. Over the past ten years, many experts have expressed skepticism about whether the trauma of the 9/11 attacks induced PTSD in its witnesses.
“Taxpayers could end up paying for psychotherapy for Woody Allen and half of Manhattan,” said Theodore H. Frank, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Federal financing for PTSD treatment, which was mandated by a measure passed by Congress in December, is a hotly contested issue. In the end, family members of many victims (not firefighters) were excluded. And although at least 10,000 people have met the criteria, according to the NYT, “the city’s health department has estimated that 61,000 of the 409,000 in the disaster area experienced ‘probable’ PTSD within six years of 9/11.”
For the people still suffering from PTSD, however, accessing treatment is a necessity. And while some see private doctors, many others cannot afford the combination of anti-depressants and psychotherapy that a doctor would prescribe. The money for treatment may decline if doctors determine that there is a link between certain cancers and 9/11.
Some question why 9/11 seems to have affected New York’s residents so deeply. Charles Figley, a professor and author of a book on Vietnam War veterans, says that it’s because they are reminded of the event daily.”
“It’s the places you see every day, where you proposed to your wife, where you remember getting the news that you got promoted, where your young children played,” he told the NYT. ”You go into a combat zone and then you leave. You don’t leave home. You return all the time.”
One wonders what the people who live in places that are routinely exposed to violence feel — do they all have undiagnosed PTSD? Or was 9/11 more traumatic because New Yorkers expected their city to be immune to such violence? Either way, it’s crucial that people who need treatment receive it — and that bickering over the definition of PTSD doesn’t stand in their way.
Photo from anjci via flickr.