Saturday, September 11, 2021 marks two important milestones.
On this day we recognize the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
We also mark Suicide Awareness Day and the end of Suicide Awareness Week.
Both are important to acknowledge and address in terms of our collective and individual mental health.
In terms of national history, the 20th anniversary of 9/11 looms large. That day, in a coordinated attack, 4 planes were hijacked and were flown into three targets – the two World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. A fourth, intended for the White House, was taken over by passengers and crashed in Pennsylvania.
Many people experienced trauma from direct involvement in these crises as they unfolded. There were the people directly involved in responding to the fires, or displaced by the collapse of the towers and nearby buildings, or who knew those who were on the planes or in the affected buildings.
Then there were those who were traumatized by watching some or all of the events unfold in real time, or in countless replays over the next few months and years.
Trauma from directly or indirectly being involved in horrific acts can affect a person in many ways. They may experience some or all of the following:
Nervousness – fidgeting, constantly moving or distracting oneself
Hyper-vigilance – taking extraordinary and some might say unnecessary steps to protect oneself or others
Loss of sleep – being unable to fall or stay asleep
Loss of appetite – not wanting to eat anything, skipping meals for days at a time
Inability to concentrate – trying to get on track but unable to stay focused
Anhedonia – not finding pleasure in even things that used to be favorites
Some may try to tell themselves they should “just forget” the events that have caused them trauma, but forgetting is not a solution. In fact, attempting to forget can amplify the distress.
Instead, working with a licensed therapist can help you find meaningful ways to mark the events and remember what happened, so you can make sense of it while resuming your life.
Suicide Awareness Week
Suicide has touched almost all of our lives. Even those who think their lives have not been touched by suicide might find that loved ones who died of natural causes according to the coroner’s report may have, in fact, committed suicide.
The dark veil of secrecy that surrounds suicide does not serve to help us prevent it.
This is why we set aside one week a year to raise awareness about suicide, and the many ways we can work together and with professional groups to reduce incidences of suicide.
We must work to make it okay for people to talk about the stress of their daily lives, their secrets, their fears, and the many ways that these items get mixed up in our heads.
Feeling hopeless is not uncommon. We all experience periods of deep shame, humiliation, helplessness, or a combination of these things. What is different is that some of us fall into a period of perseveration, where we can’t stop thinking about the worst parts of our lives. For some people, their failings consume them and hijack their thought processes, preventing them from relying on their natural abilities to drag them out of depression.
Here are some things we can do to reduce incidents of suicide:
- Share suicide prevention hotline numbers in social media
- On social media and in person, tell your friends they can talk to you or someone close to them
- Be a confidential friend – no one trusts a gossip
- Reduce access to guns in the household – guns are the most effective and most common method of suicide
- Be vigilant when a friend is going through challenging times including divorce, job loss, reduced income, or other personal challenges in public or private
- Schedule time to be 1:1 with friends experiencing challenges, and just listen
If you or someone you love is struggling with memories of 9/11, or dealing with issues, perhaps you can encourage them to talk with a therapist. And a great way to send the message to others that it’s okay to talk with a therapist is by being part of a healthy therapeutic relationship.
A licensed therapist like Sakina Issa can help you, or can serve as an important resource for others.
Hit the red button to set up a free, no-obligation consultation as soon as next week and get the help you need.
A therapist can’t solve your problems, but they can show you the tools you have and teach you strategies for how best to handle those problems.