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We Need to Talk – Mental Health and the 9/11 Community

December 21, 2020 | Michael Barasch

There are now 68 different types of cancer and dozens of respiratory illnesses that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has linked to exposure to Ground Zero toxins on 9/11 or during any part of the following 8 months. 

The heroes who came to Lower Manhattan as first responders on 9/11 or in the months afterwards as search-and-rescue, recovery, and clean-up workers know that the scars are often not only physical, but also mental.

Many of these individuals lost friends that day but bravely continued their heroic work, searching through the rubble for survivors and the bodies of the deceased, or even a piece of identification.

Unfortunately, a stigma persists about mental health and treatment, with many people still reluctant to acknowledge the symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other conditions preventing them from accessing treatment that could improve their quality of life, and sometimes save it. 

A recent report published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that many 9/11 first responders and rescue and recovery workers fear that seeking treatment for mental conditions could have negative consequences at their job. Other individuals are not sure where to find mental health resources.

Here are the facts:

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers cannot penalize employees in any way for having a mental health condition. And, with rare exceptions, you are not required to tell anyone about your condition or treatment.

There are also resources available if you need help – we have included a list below.

9/11 was a moment of trauma for an entire nation. Our first responders and rescue and recovery workers suffered disproportionately, and many of them are still in need. 

If you need help or know someone who does, reach out today.

Mental Health Resources:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – 800-662-HELP (4357)

National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center – 866-615-6464

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741

Veterans Crisis Line – 800-273-8255

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