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Expert: Mental health key concern

After the collapse of the World Trade Center, physical safety became the main concern for the rescue workers and residents of New York City. With no findings of air pollution from the smoke and fire, mental health has now become a concern for Americans.

Tammy Alsing knows that sometimes a tragic event causes people to picture a new world that has suddenly changed. Alsing, a medical health counselor for Life Path Hospice, said the terrorist attack on America was a tragic incident that caused people across the nation to experience the fear of their safety and trust in the nation.

“People who had any connection or experience with the tragedy are capable of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,” Alsing said. “But the symptoms will be more severe for those who were closely related to it.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder is the psychological effects that are experienced after being exposed to a traumatic event, Alsing said. She said family, survivors and workers who experienced the tragedy go through steps of emotions. These emotions usually begin with denial, followed by anger, sadness and depression, she said.

Alsing said those who were closely exposed to the attack can also experience stress reactions such as intrusive thoughts, images and emotional pain.

“The closer to the situation, the more dramatic their post-traumatic stress disorder will be,” Alsing said. “Just seeing and hearing about the event repeatedly can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Repetitive images of what people have seen on television can even affect students? concentration and emotions, Alsing said.

Junior David Schrift said when the topic of the attacks is brought up, he can visualize the horrific events of that day.

“Whenever I hear about the attack, I always picture the plane going through the building,” Schrift said. “Since the tragedy, I have rearranged my priorities in life and decided what is really important.”

Since fire rescuers and police officers in New York City were the first responders to the destruction, their reaction to the situation will be delayed, she said.

“The workers? role and duty on the site has not really let them think about it,” Alsing said. “It hits them later, when they get a chance to take a deep breath and realize the situation.”

She said it is important that the rescue workers express their thoughts verbally in a group with counselors so they can become aware of feelings and normalize their life.

“When the tragedy happened, it made people go back to the belief of safety and trust,” Alsing said.

The concern for physical safety at the site has decreased after it was revealed that the smoke in the air was not a serious threat.

Allan Goldman, pulmonary specialist, said health safety is a less severe concern for rescue workers and residents in the area where the World Trade Center collapsed. Goldman said health safety is not an issue at the moment because asbestos was not found in the air surrounding the area.

Goldman said air samples were taken from New York City and compared to the air samples of another area to look for any fibers of asbestos.

“They took the air measurements, and fortunately it wasn?t a problem,” Goldman said.

Rescue workers are still protecting their health safety by wearing respiratory protections such as oxygen tanks and protective gear from the smoke that may still remain, he said.

“We are exposed to asbestos everyday from a level of sources in the air,” Goldman said. “But no diseases are likely to occur from the smoke, unless there was something else in the air we didn?t know about.”

Contact Grace Agostin at