Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?
You may have been at work with a group of colleagues, taking in the news while huddled around a TV set. Maybe you were sitting in class at school when a teacher or school administrator informed students of what happened. How did you react to the news?
How did you feel in the days and months that followed?
The events of 9/11 affected countless people worldwide. Watching newsreels of two airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings triggered a strong emotional response in many Americans.
For some, the emotional distress of Sept. 11 lingered for months and years. Both adults and children would go on to develop mental health disorders that resulted from that day. Some of those with mental illness went on to experience substance use problems. Studies show that many people living in New York City were strongly affected by the events — especially those who witnessed the tragedy.
New Yorkers Affected by 9/11
The Sept. 11 attacks traumatized many Americans. The events created or exacerbated mental health problems among many people across the United States. They dealt with higher levels of stress and anxiety in the day’s aftermath. In some cases, people began using drugs or alcohol to escape their distress.
The events greatly affected many individuals in the vicinity of the World Trade Centers or at the site of the attack. Marcy Borders was working as a clerical assistant at Bank of America on the 81st floor of the north tower when a jetliner struck the building.
Despite safely exiting the building, Borders was enveloped in ash after the neighboring south tower collapsed before her eyes. A photographer snapped a shot of her moments after she had been covered in ash. The photograph circulated worldwide, and she became known by the media as the “Dust Lady.”
In the years after 9/11, Borders grappled with severe bouts of anxiety and depression that stemmed from that day. To numb her mental health problems, she began using alcohol and cocaine. The impacts of the tragedy and substance use affected her for years. In 2015, she died of stomach cancer.
A 2002 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that people living south of Canal Street in New York City, near ground zero, were three times more likely than other New Yorkers to experience a mental health problem.
Anxiety disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were common among New York City residents after Sept. 11. Some New Yorkers panicked at the sight of an airplane or whenever they heard sirens. Counseling for symptoms of PTSD increased in New York in the months after 9/11.
How 9/11 Affected the Rest of America
Sept. 11 affected more than just New York residents. It affected Americans all over the United States. As news programs replayed video footage of the tragedies on loop in the days following 9/11, many people dealt with feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
In the month after the events, a study by the Rand Corporation interviewed 560 American adults about their reactions to the tragedies. According to the study, 44 percent of respondents dealt with at least one symptom of PTSD, like disturbing memories or insomnia.
The events of 9/11 also affected the children of adults analyzed in the survey. Researchers found that about one-third of respondents had children who experienced a stress response to Sept. 11. Some of these children endured nightmares or exhibited angry outbursts.
Another survey was conducted by a separate set of researchers between Sept. 20 and Oct. 4, 2011. More than 2,700 adults were screened at random to assess their emotional responses to the 9/11 attacks. During that time, about 10 percent of respondents reported experiencing high levels of acute stress, like post-traumatic stress or fears of future terrorist attacks.
Three years later, researchers re-examined these respondents to assess their physical and mental health. The follow-up study showed that some of the respondents who reported distress in the days after 9/11 dealt with cardiac problems and were at an increased risk of heart disease.
Teens were also affected by that day. A study published in the journal Psychiatric Services indicated that 18 percent of adolescents in grades 6–12 sought psychological services after 9/11. Many teens who used these services experienced symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress.
Mental illness can affect the way people think, feel and behave. Mental health disorders are closely associated with addiction. If you’re experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder, treatment may be needed. At The Recovery Village, trained addiction experts cater to your specific needs and teach you to better manage your addiction and mental illness. To learn more about how treatment can help you heal, contact The Recovery Village today.