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Reliving disaster

Local mental health experts discuss how to cope with the Sept. 11 anniversary

Josh Nichols

Along with the news clips and discussions of what occurred, feelings of sadness and confusion might return Wednesday on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, local mental health officials say.

The key to dealing with those resurfacing feelings is to do just that, talk about and deal with them, said Gina Golden, clinical programs coordinator at Craig Mental Health Center.

“I think that people are going to be anxious about the possibility of seeing the same thing happen again,” Golden said. “There might be some concern about what else might happen.”

If the film footage of the attack which has already begun to hit the airways bring feelings of sadness, those feelings need to be discussed, Golden said.

“Some of the feelings they haven’t felt for months are going to come up again,” she said. “People need to talk about it. They should not feel bad or funny if they are still experiencing symptoms.”

People should not be ashamed if feelings of sadness return even if other coworkers show no emotion, Golden said.

“People react differently,” she said. “They need to accept that it’s normal and not feel weird that those feelings are coming up again. They need to talk to others about it.”

Gary Gurney, psychotherapist with Yampa Valley Psychotherapists, said he has not dealt with many patients who are having difficulty dealing with what occurred on Sept. 11, but has had people in his office trying to deal with factors stemming from what occurred as a result of Sept. 11.

“I have not seen a lot of repercussions from 9-11,” he said. “But I have seen an increase in people with generalized anxiety.”

Generalized anxiety, Gurney described, is more of a “free-floating worry” in which many people are worried about finances in a lagging economy and possible war as a result of the terrorist attacks.

“I don’t have a lot of people saying they are having nightmares about planes crashing into the towers,” he said. “They just have general worries about the world.”

These generalized anxieties might return on the anniversary of the tragedy, he said.

But Gurney said he has seen some positives come out of Sept. 11 on how people view the world.

“Since 9-11, I’ve seen a lot of people returning to their spirituality,” he said. “They’re putting aside their religious differences and realizing that basically we’re all one people. People are asking themselves, ‘How do I get back to an understanding of peace?’ It’s been kind of neat. It’s caused people to re-evaluate their belief system.”

Gurney said it is important that people focus on the positive that has come out of the disaster.

“I’m hoping on the anniversary some real good stuff comes out about people coming together since 9-11,” he said. “I think that’s what people need to focus on.”

Craig Intermediate School Counselor Tom Nagoda said the school will commemorate the tragic day with the Pledge of Allegiance and will deal briefly with the issue, but he said the school will leave it up to children’s families on how to deal with and talk about the event.

“At this age, each family needs to handle it their own way,” Nagoda said. “I would hope each family mentions the significance of what happened so kids have a good grasp of what really happened and how tragic of a day that was.”

It’s time to briefly reflect, but look to the future, he said.

“We need to move on especially with these young lives,” he said.

Kathy Bockelman, a counselor at Craig Middle School, said it’s a delicate subject matter, even with the students at CMS who are older than

CIS students are.

“It’s certainly an issue,” she said. “We don’t want to ignore it but don’t want to create uneasy feelings. We’re going to try and concentrate on the positive things that have happened since Sept. 11, and the heroism.”

Her advice to parents, she said, was to concentrate on the aspects of their everyday lives that they can control in talking with their children.

Golden agreed.

“Children need to be reassured that they’re safe,” she said. “They need to talk and be heard. They need to be reassured that it’s not happening again.”

While it’s at the discretion of parents, Golden encouraged them not to allow their children to view too much television when clips of the attacks are being played repeatedly.

“Hopefully parents won’t be letting their kids see a lot of it,” she said.


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