Untrained NJ 9/11 first responders now facing major mental health issues
A new study finds untrained first responders who showed up at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks are more than five times as likely than traditional first responders to have considered taking their own life.
Iris Udasin, the director of the Center of Excellence at Rutgers University for the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, said the study reveals “these untrained workers, 12.5% of them, actually reported suicide ideation, depression, pretty significant mental health issues.”
By comparison, 2.2% of police, EMTs and firefighters experienced suicide ideation.
Why is this happening?
Udasin said non-traditional responders don't have the same support services as police and fire departments.
“These non-traditional people were people that might have been construction workers, laborers. They were certainly not used to seeing human remains, being around smoldering fires," Udasin said.
She said for many, it was a shock for them to be part of the recovery effort at Ground Zero, but they don’t have to suffer in silence.
Help is available
“We have been able to help a good number of people in the program," she said. "We would like to help more people if we can, we want them to come into our programs and let us help them.”
The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, is believed to be the first to examine the prevalence and connection of thoughts of suicide in two occupational groups that participated in rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Udasin said this provides “a more nuanced understanding of the risks associated with responding to disasters without adequate training.”
For information on how to apply to the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, you can visit www.cdc.gov/wtc or call 1-888-982-4748.