“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost — a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”

— President Barack Obama

On September 11, 2020, it will have been nearly two decades since tragedy struck New York City. On that day, 19 years ago, two hijacked planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, a third plane struck the pentagon, and a fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field. Killing nearly 3,000 people, including 343 firefighters and paramedics, as well as 23 New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers.

While it’s important that we remember all of the innocent lives that were lost that day, it’s important that we take an extra moment of silence for the first responders who courageously gave their lives to help others.

Remembering the First Responders Who Gave Their Lives on 9/11

With each passing year, the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 continue to gather at ground zero. Following the attack, thousands of volunteers and first responders helped sort through the debris, in the hopes of finding survivors. On that day, more than 400 first responders lost their lives. However, this is just the beginning.

Nearly two decades later, the death toll continues to rise. As reported by a New York Medical College professor and volunteer firefighter, “I don’t think we have reached 15 percent of cancer we’re going to see.” As of 2018, nearly 10,000 first responders and others who were in the World Trade Center area have been diagnosed with cancer, including higher rates of kidney and blood cancers. More than 2,000 deaths were attributed to 9/11 illnesses. This is due to the environmental toxins they were exposed to.

At the time, the situation created sheer panic. No one had time to prepare and in many cases, first responders and volunteers didn’t know what they were dealing with. In terms of melting steel and exposure to various chemicals, these individuals were not wearing adequate equipment. From asbestos to burning computer parts, burning jet fuel to pulverized concrete, a toxic cocktail was brewed that day.

At first, these individuals experienced respiratory diseases and other illnesses in the first few years following 9/11. By 2013, some 50 cancers were included in the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and the death toll continues to rise.

What About the Mental Health Effects of 9/11?

First responders face a significantly higher risk of developing conditions such as PTSD due to the conditions of their job. It is estimated that 30 percent of first responders will develop behavioral health conditions, including PTSD and depression, compared to 20 percent in the general population. In some cases, this estimate is even higher.

As you can imagine, terrorist events, such as 9/11, are traumatic by design. What occurred on that morning of September 11, 2001, was life-changing for many. Following the attacks, surveys showcased a high incidence of PTSD in both survivors and first responders.

As reported in one study, it was found that of the police officers who responded to 9/11, 12.9 percent reported PTSD symptoms more than a decade after the attacks. Of these individuals, 72.4 percent also reported symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers stated that those who arrived early at the scene faced a higher risk of PTSD while a history of alcohol abuse was linked to depression.

Overall, the research shows that approximately 20 percent of men and 26 percent of women who responded on September 11, 2001, developed PTSD. This is at least twice the rate expected in the general population. Since PTSD is linked to stroke and heart attack, other health risks need to be taken into consideration years later. This relationship was documented in the World Trade Center-Heart study, which focused on more than 6,400 first responders.

What makes this study so unique, is that researchers had a 15-year follow-up of people who were all exposed to the same highly traumatic event at the same time. Since PTSD causes high levels of anxiety and an influx of stress hormone levels, this condition impacts everything from your blood pressure to your sleep patterns. In that sense, the connection between PTSD and the risk of future cardiovascular issues is not overly surprising.

Help Is Available to Those In Need

On 9/11, thousands of individuals experienced significant trauma. Based on what we know about first responders in terms of mental health and addiction risk, it’s important to seek the help you need — whether you were affected by 9/11 or are dealing with trauma related to your work. For example, trauma related to the recent COVID pandemic.

It is well-understood that first responders face a higher risk of PTSD and depression in comparison to the general population. An increased risk of substance use disorder is also a major concern. Recent research shows that 20 percent of all first responders with PTSD also have a substance use disorder.

Read more: Silent Clients — Trauma’s Effects on First Responders

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among first responders with PTSD. However, these conditions are bidirectional. Meaning, one can lead to the other. This is why we offer our dual diagnosis service. Whether you or your loved one are dealing with symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, or any other condition that is currently reducing your quality of life, help is available.

At Transformations, we help people create healthier futures. Our ultimate goal is to restore hope, create purpose, and change lives. We are proud to offer a wide range of specialized programs, including our Veterans Recovery Program, which focuses on PTSD and substance abuse disorders; as well as our First Responders Program. The latter was designed for police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, paramedics, and emergency personnel, and is led by a Masters Level therapist who is also a military veteran and former first responder.

Now is the time to take action. You no longer need to suffer in silence. Your new life can start here — call us today!

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