Workplace response of companies exposed to the 9/11 World Trade Center attack: a focus-group study

Authors

  • Carol S. North,

    1. MD, MPE is Professor at The VA North Texas Health Care System and the Nancy and Ray L. Hunt Chair in Crisis Psychiatry and Professor at the Departments of Psychiatry and Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, United States
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  • Betty Pfefferbaum,

    1. MD, JD is the George Lynn Cross Research Professor, Paul and Ruth Jonas Chair, and Professor and Chairman at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, United States
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  • Barry A. Hong,

    1. PhD is Professor of Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, United States
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  • Mollie R. Gordon,

    1. MD is Instructor at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, United States
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  • You-Seung Kim,

    1. MSW is a student at The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, United States
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  • Lisa Lind,

    1. PhD is Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, United States
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  • David E. Pollio

    1. PhD is the Hill Crest Foundation Endowed Chair in Mental Health Research at The University of Alabama School of Social Work, United States.
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Correspondence
Carol S. North, M.D., M.P.E., The Nancy and Ray L. Hunt Chair in Crisis Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 6363 Forest Park Road, Suite 651, Dallas, TX 75390–8828, United States. Telephone: +1 214 648 5375; fax: +1 214 648 5376; e-mail: Carol.North@UTSouthwestern.edu

Abstract

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (9/11) left workplaces in pressing need of a mental health response capability. Unaddressed emotional sequelae may be devastating to the productivity and economic stability of a company's workforce. In the second year after the attacks, 85 employees of five highly affected agencies participated in 12 focus groups to discuss workplace mental health issues. Managers felt ill prepared to manage the magnitude and the intensity of employees' emotional responses. Rapid return to work, provision of workplace mental health services, and peer support were viewed as contributory to emotional recovery. Formal mental health services provided were perceived as insufficient. Drawing on their post-9/11 workplace experience, members of these groups identified practical measures that they found helpful in promoting healing outside of professional mental health services. These measures, consistent with many principles of psychological first aid, may be applied by workplace leaders who are not mental health professionals.

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