The Sept. 11 terrorist attack was an event so unprecedented and so overwhelming that it has left a nation struggling with depression, anxiety, anger and outright fear.
For those already plagued by mental disorders, last week's assault may compound those problems, experts say. But everyone feels something.
It's a national mourning," says Dr. Ken Duckworth, a psychiatrist and the medical director for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, whose agency has established a mental health hotline and issued tips for coping. The key message: Whatever you're feeling is normal.
Seven in 10 Americans say they have felt depressed since the terrorist attacks, nearly half report having trouble concentrating and a third said they have had trouble sleeping, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
We're just trying to remind people that you are fine. This is an over-the-top event; it isn't your response that's over-the-top, says Duckworth.
The American Psychiatric Association has these tips for coping with the disaster:
- Acknowledge your feelings of fear, anger and grief. Talk with others about the tragedy and your feelings.
- Talk with your children or other children about the disaster and assure them that they are safe and protected in a strong nation.
- Limit television watching. Don't allow children to view the repetitive scenes of destruction over which they have no control. Instead, help children gain mastery over situations they can control, such as homework or sports.
- Talk with children about hate and prejudice.
- Participate in community ceremonies that will be held across the country to remember and honor the dead and wounded, and rededicate yourself to the principles in which our nation stands.
- Contribute in some way to the rescue work and rebuilding effort through donations of time, money or other assistance to victims and their families.
- Write sympathy and support notes to affected individuals and groups.
- Give blood now and at regular intervals.
- Draw strength from your spiritual or religious beliefs and traditions.
- Resume your normal routine as quickly as possible. Be informed of unfolding events, but avoid wallowing in the gruesome detail.
- Understand that the strong feelings of grief can resurface sporadically even months after the events, and that such feelings are normal. Consult a medical or mental health professional if feelings of grief and loss or fears stemming from the event become chronic and impair your daily activities and relationships.
- Know that the tragedy will pass; buildings will be repaired and rebuilt; life will go on, and our nation will remain strong. But, as with a death in the family, life will never be quite the same.
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