Post Traumatic Stress – relieved or relived?

I had planned to write a post about managing stress – something we all deal with daily. With the news this past week of Osama bin Laden’s death, it seemed like the time to discuss a specific stress disorder, namely post-traumatic stress.

Everyone, especially here in New York, was affected in some way by those terrible events on September 11th, almost a decade ago. I was personally very fortunate in that no one I knew – including several firefighters and friends that worked in the area – died or was physically injured. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t hurt in some way. The psychological shock of that day is very real and for many, still very strong 10 years later.

Post-traumatic stress, a mental health disorder brought on by severe psychological trauma or events still exists for thousands of people. Experts say that time, and mental health counseling, may help to ease the flashbacks, nightmares, fear, and anxiety this condition causes. But 9/11 was an event like no other, and one that gets replayed over and over on television and the Internet.

It is very difficult to put such a tragedy out of one’s mind when video appears repeatedly on the evening news. Hearing that bin Laden was killed may help some people find closure and gain a sense of relief. However, as Michael Fornica noted in a Psychology Today article “But for many, there is no closure here, and this death will serve only to revive the grief and rage that has subtly gripped the national consciousness for a decade.”

The unending media coverage of this event has no doubt awakened horrible memories for many people. Once again, video from 9/11 appears everywhere. Photographs of this terrorist dominate print and online news sites. It’s almost impossible to escape. For many survivors, witnesses, and family members of those who died, it will never go away, regardless of which side of the debate about releasing those death photos you are on.

What seems to be forgotten in much of the pontification is the mental health of the families, survivors, and those that watched, and re-watched those planes hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. While most of us feel a sense of relief that bin Ladin gone, experts acknowledge “the pain, the sense of loss, the burden of sorrow, and nagging anxieties will remain,” and nothing can bring back those that perished that day. That sense of loss and sadness will remain forever.

So instead of expounding on censorship, or appropriateness, or anything else these talking heads may rail about, consider the families – shouldn’t their mental health take priority? Most of us go about our days, with this tragedy in the back of our minds. For them, each day begins and ends coping with post-traumatic stress.

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