9/11 Mental Health Risks to Responders are Increasing

9/11 responders who didn’t contract PTSD may struggle with a new form of dementia, according to a recent study.

A cartoon of 9/11 responder talking to a mental health counselor (psychologist)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the most common 9/11 mental health impairment but it’s not the only one. According to study author Sean Clouston, “overall, the study supports the view that responders with CI [cognitive impairment] have neurological changes consistent with neurodegenerative disease.” This disease affects the white matter in the brain.

WTC Physical Health Issues

We all remember the images of emergency responders putting their lives on the line that day. But the short-term injury risks almost pale in comparison to the long-term injury risks. These long-term injury risks aren’t limited to lower Manhattan. In 2002, a Stuyvesant school had asbestos levels twenty times higher than the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act danger level.

Builders used considerable amounts of asbestos in the Twin Towers, especially below the 40th floor. This means that when the Towers fell, asbestos fibers were part of the toxic dust that enveloped the area. Those tiny fibers have been linked to a number of serious, and normally fatal, illnesses, such as mesothelioma.

Mental Health Issues

As mentioned in the above story, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, dementia, and other mental health issues have physical causes.

Extreme stress, like combat or 9/11 first responder stress, changes brain chemistry. The amygdala, which controls emotional responses, enlarges, and the cerebral cortex, which controls logical responses, shrinks. This imbalance explains symptoms like:

  • Depression,
  • Anger,
  • Hypervigilance, and
  • Flashbacks.

Chemical imbalances, like PTSD and the associated new form of dementia, require chemical treatments. The chemical changes themselves are permanent so victims must usually stay on these medications for life.

Compensation Options

If 9/11 victims were in Lower Manhattan, either on that day or in the following months, they may be eligible for compensation through the Victim Compensation Fund.

Most victims who were in Lower Manhattan on 9/11, or within about eight months thereafter, might be eligible for VCF compensation. Establishing a presence is similar to showing proof of residency: a lease, mortgage statement, or utility bill are the best ways to establish it. That’s especially true if the victim only maintained one residence. Further evidence includes credit card purchases, building visitor logs, and security camera footage.

Additionally, these victims must have a 9/11-related illness. A doctor’s statement that toxic exposure likely caused the illness is often sufficient. That’s especially true if the victim wasn’t exposed to toxic substances anywhere else, such as benzene fumes from a powered landscaping tool or toxic fumes from a chemical solvent.

9/11 victims, no matter when their illnesses became apparent, usually have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We do what it takes to uphold the legal and financial rights of injury victims nationwide.

9/11 Mental Health Risks to Responders are Increasing