October 2001

On September 11, our lives changed forever
We have all been affected by the terrorist attack on our country. Our world will never be the same. Emotions are mixed with very strong feelings of anger and sadness. Recent data also suggests that many of us are depressed by this assault on our country.

Terrorism affects us both emotionally and physically and can put our health at risk. The stress and depression that may follow can make you more vulnerable to illness. At an elementary school near Washington, DC, teachers were instructed in the signs of children's stress. They were told that children could present with physical illnesses, stomachaches, headaches, and fearfulness. The teacher herself was tired and irritable, and became sick with a cold.

It is very important to take care of yourself. The following are some suggestions to help you do just that:

  • Talk to your family, friends, or clergy about how you are feeling.
  • If sadness persists or you are unable to do your activities of daily life, you should consult your physician and/or a mental health professional.
  • Exercise is also a wonderful way to help you feel better. Exercise releases endorphins, which are 'natural antidepressants.'
  • Volunteer or donate money to a relief organization.

Children may need special help to cope with this tragedy. Children are very sensitive to the way adults respond to the terrorist attack. They need reassurance that they are safe; give your children extra time and attention; encourage them to express their emotions. They also may want to help. A very positive approach is for the children to write letters thanking the rescue workers.

If you need more information to help cope with the situation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a Disaster Mental Health Services site, http://www.mentalhealth.org/cmhs/EmergencyServices/index.htm. This site provides information about how the disaster affects your mental health and includes links to helpful web sites.

Finally, we are indebted to the men and women who bravely fought to save lives after this tragedy. Words do not adequately express our gratitude.

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Check back next month for more Personal Stories.

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