News & Events

Limit exposure to 9/11 anniversary media hype

September 7, 2011

The 10thanniversary of the events we now call simply “9/11” can be a time for reflection and remembrance.

But as the horrific events of that day play out again and again in the media, it’s important not to become re-traumatized, said James O’Dea, PhD, Vice President for Service Line Development at Backus Hospital.

“Hours after the attacks on 9/11, I was advising people to limit their exposure to media if these sights and sounds were creating undue anxiety or distress,” Dr. O’Dea said. “That advice is as true today as it was in 2001.”

Although a decade is a long time, it is not that long when one considers the enormity of the psychic impact of events like those of 9/11.

“Almost all of us have extraordinarily vivid memories of that day — where we were, who we were with, how we felt,” Dr. O’Dea said. “It was natural to feel a range of emotions: fear, anger, helplessness, despair. It is not unusual or unexpected for people to experience some of those same feelings again.”

Dr. O’Dea offers the following advice to help cope with the 9/11 anniversary:

* First, be aware that you may experience a strong emotional reaction, and that this is not abnormal.

* Turn off or walk away from media reports that upset you — especially TV and Internet video.  Instead, watch a movie, read a book, go for a walk, call a friend.

* Consider taking part in one of the several community commemorations for 9/11, or participate in a memorial service in a house of worship.

* As always, take care of yourself: Eat properly, get a good night’s rest, and get some exercise.

* Talk with family members, friends and colleagues about your feelings and memories.

* Be especially watchful of younger people. Remember that today’s mid-teens still have early memories of 9/11.

* As always, if you feel you need extra assistance in dealing with your feelings, seek professional help.

“The emotional impact of the tragic events of 9/11 was real,” Dr. O’Dea said. “It’s natural to want to remember that day, but not at the risk of becoming re-traumatized.”