September 11th Survivors with Mental Health Conditions
September 11th was a tragic attack on America. As New York City and the United States at large began the recovery process, the responders and survivors faced a number of disorders and conditions as a result of 9/11. Many survivors were impacted by mental health conditions. The law firm of Pitta & Baione can help you determine eligibility for benefits under the World Trade Center Health Program and the Victim Compensation Fund.
Identifying Mental Health Conditions in September 11th Survivors
There are many mental health conditions people face every day. Many mental health conditions are associated with experiencing trauma. September 11th was certainly a trauma, causing pain, distress, and suffering. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) does not cover any mental health conditions. Financial compensation is only available for physical conditions.
However, the World Trade Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) may provide treatment for certain mental health conditions such as:
- Acute distress disorder
- Adjustment disorder
- Anxiety disorders (not otherwise specified)
- Depression (not otherwise specified)
- Dysthymic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in September 11th Survivors
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event. The person suffering from PTSD can experience or witness the trauma. PTSD is exhibited through flashbacks, severe anxiety, and uncontrolled thoughts. September 11th was truly traumatic and a number of people witnessed the horror during the attacks and continued to experience the trauma throughout the recovery period. One of the difficulties about PTSD is that it may take years for signs and symptoms to become apparent and for the disorder to be diagnosed.
Additional symptoms of PTSD include:
- Being easily frightened
- Self-destructive behavior
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, anger, and aggressive behavior
- Overwhelming guilt
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Feelings of detachment
- Emotional numbness
- Feeling hopeless
- Avoiding thinking about or talking about the trauma
- Avoiding people, places, and activities that are reminders of the trauma
9/11 survivors may have suffered from PTSD for years without realizing it.
Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Conditions
There are many mental health conditions that affect people in different ways. Therefore, there are a multitude of signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. Seeking professional medical care for these conditions is important to ensure diagnosis and ongoing treatment for the patient. Some common signs and symptoms of mental health conditions include:
- Feelings of sadness
- Confusion, or difficulty concentrating
- Excessive fear and worry
- Extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes
- Withdrawing from friends and activities
- Paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems
- Anger or hostile or violent behavior
- Substance misuse or abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
Diagnosing Mental Health Conditions
Diagnosing a mental health condition involves evaluation and observation. Testing for mental health conditions may involve:
- Physical examination to determine if there are physical reasons for signs and symptoms
- Laboratory tests to check for chemical reasons whether bodily functions such as hormones, or external substances such as drugs or alcohol
- Psychological evaluation by a mental health professional to identify symptoms and behaviors and how they relate to conditions
Complications and Disruptions of Mental Health Conditions
Mental health conditions can cause additional complications and disruptions to life. In addition to symptoms disrupting daily activities and well-being, mental health conditions contribute to relationship difficulties and conflicts, social isolation, substance misuse and abuse, and missed work leading to additional work-related problems. Disruptions are not just societal, mental health conditions can result in physical complications including a weakened immune system that prevents the body from resisting other illnesses, as well as heart disease and other medical conditions.
Treating Mental Health Conditions
Treating mental health conditions is a very personal experience. Each condition and person is unique, but common therapies are available to treat mental health conditions. A support system is important for treatment. Each support system is distinctive, but can include: primary care medical staff, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, pharmacists, social workers, and family members.
Medications can treat symptoms of mental health conditions. There are many types of medication available to treat mental health conditions:
- Antidepressants treat symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, and lack of interest in activities
- Anti-anxiety medication treat anxiety disorders, and can help reduce symptoms such as agitation and insomnia
- Mood-stabilizing medications are used to treat bipolar disorders and can be paired with other medication to treat additional symptoms
Another treatment is psychotherapy, which involves talking with a therapist and learning coping skills and techniques to manage symptoms and improve well-being. Psychotherapy can be in a one-on-one private setting with patient and therapist, conducted within the patient’s personal support system, or group therapy. Community support groups for mental health conditions and substance disorders can help with recovery.
At times, a patient is best served by hospitalization. This is done to keep the patient and others safe, as well as participate in more intensive therapies. Hospitalization can be long term or short term depending on the needs of the patient. There are also partial hospitalization programs that include classes, therapy, and medical attention to help with recovery. Hospitalization may also help someone going through substance abuse issues to break their use of substances and work on returning to daily activities.