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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Experts praise Paris’ response to trauma

United by the trauma of terrorist attacks 14 years apart, New York City and Paris have exhibited the same fortitude and determination to overcome the tears and fears with love, life and laughter.

Experts say this is the best possible response to such horrors.

Psychologists who have studied the effects of the 9/11 attacks on New York say that few people, including those directly exposed, will experience prolonged symptoms of trauma.

But in the very short term, the vast majority of people "directly exposed to this kind of event will show considerable distress," said George Bonanno, professor of clinical psychology and head of the Loss, Trauma and Emotion Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Bonanno, who coauthored a study on the psychological effects of the 2001 attacks over a decade, said this first response is healthy and natural.

"It means that your stress response is working." Trouble sleeping, bursting into tears, anxiety, feeling depressed and being sensitive to particular noises and memories are typical symptoms.

"The stress response is wonderfully adapted; it is conserved by evolution," said Bonanno, explaining that it allows people to move on to the second stage of recovery and adapt to a new reality.

"It doesn't mean the person has gone crazy or even has a disorder or has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)," said Douglas Mennin of Hunter College. Trauma normally dissipates in a couple of weeks or months. For only a small proportion of people - fewer than 10 percent - difficulties are more serious and last longer.

Some 2,700 people were killed on the morning of September 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda hijackers flew two passenger jets into the Twin Towers in Manhattan, ultimately destroying the buildings. Hundreds more were killed when two other hijacked planes were respectively crashed at the Pentagon just outside Washington and in Pennsylvania.

Afterward, 10,000 people were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.

In the Paris shootings and suicide bombing attacks, 130 people were killed and several hundred others were wounded.

In New York, those who lived close to the World Trade Center, first responders, victims' family members and those with a good view of the skyscrapers, even at a distance, were the worst affected.

"That's where you found higher incidence of depression and anxiety following these events," said Anne Marie Albano, director of Columbia University's Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders.

But other than those directly affected and those who suffered from pre-existing disorders, "we didn't find ... new cases of psychiatric illness like new cases of depression or PTSD or anxiety," she said. "This will likely be the same in Paris."

New York experts praised the resilience of Parisians, evident in spontaneous vigils and their determination to carry on with normal life.

Experts advised that it is not necessary for those who feel affected by the trauma of the attacks to immediately consult a therapist unless they want to.

New York continues to commemorate September 11 on each anniversary, reading out the names of the victims and shinning beams of light into the sky from the site of the fallen towers.

But New Yorkers have moved past the trauma, said Mennin.

"The Twin Towers were part of our skyline, of our identity. We moved on, and incorporated the event in our narrative. I do believe Paris will do the same," he added.

  AFP
globaltimes.cn
22/11/15

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