Resilience should highlight 9/11 anniversary

September 9, 2011 5:45 AM

Joseph Halm

As the country marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, Tulane trauma and mental health expert Charles Figley says the anniversary is a turning point. “People are feeling very different,” he says. “It is all part of the phenomenon of grieving and moving on. There are some people who just don’t want to look back, and there are others who are obsessed by it and can’t move on.”

Charles Figley

Charles Figley hopes people’s resilience in the face of adversity will characterize the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

This anniversary promises to generate the most media coverage since the fifth anniversary, which has caused some observers to ask, “Is it a good idea to have so much coverage?” The answer is far from black and white. But, in short, Figley says, “yes.”

“I think it is a good thing that we pause and recognize where we were when we first heard about it, where the country was at the time and then how we were each year since then,” says Figley, who holds the Paul Henry Kurzweg Chair in Disaster Mental Health in the Tulane School of Social Work and is director of the Tulane Traumatology Institute.

“When we pause, we don’t just think about the bad parts but also about how much better we are now. Collectively, it provides us with an opportunity to take stock. It is an opportunity for us to consider how things have changed since then,” Figley says.

The Gulf South has experienced its own trauma with Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, and Figley hopes people’s resilience in the face of these adversities will characterize the anniversaries of each.

“I think we have come a long way in recognizing that as we spend time focusing on deficits like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and depression, we also have to focus on the other side of the ledger. This adversity also has uncovered a lot of successes, a lot of springing back, a lot of creativity and problem-solving,” Figley says.

Joseph Halm is marketing/communications coordinator for the Tulane School of Social Work.

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