- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

RICHMOND The state has begun a television and radio ad campaign in Northern Virginia to remind people of mental health services available to those who experience stress, flashbacks or other emotional reactions as the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks approaches.
"As we get closer to the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, many of us will have reactions such as anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, sadness and more, as we did in the days, weeks and months that followed the attacks," said Dr. James S. Reinhard, state mental health commissioner.
Among the more than 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks were 189 at the Pentagon in Arlington County 125 in the building and 64 on hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the building.
The state received a $7.5 million federal grant to provide counseling and other services to Northern Virginians feeling stress from the attack.
The grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency extended the Community Resilience Project set up by the state Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services and public mental health agencies in Northern Virginia a month after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York.
The state agency has coordinated distribution of the grant money and provided oversight of the program. Community mental health agencies in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the city of Alexandria will receive the funds through Dec. 15.
Services offered at no charge to the public include individual, family and group counseling, stress management, grief and loss management, counseling of children, and referral to mental health services. Officials tracked the program between March 15 and June 15 and found that 72,540 persons used the services during the three-month period.
Officials noted that people feeling stress, insomnia, irritability or other problems from the attacks don't necessarily have mental illness. The community resilience program lets people know it's normal to have some problems from such a traumatic event.
Ruby Brown, a psychologist who heads the resilience project in Arlington, said the large immigrant community in Northern Virginia was hit particularly hard.
"A lot of them left their home countries to get away from terrorism. They came to the U.S. to be safe, and now it has occurred here. We have seen a negative emotional impact," especially among elderly immigrants, Miss Brown said.
Many immigrants in the area are cabdrivers and restaurant workers who also were jolted economically by the downturn in tourism.
One problem that Miss Brown and her staff saw after September 11 was hypervigilance, an abnormal concern about personal safety. Nearly a year later, it still exists.
"People still look up when an airplane flies over," she said. "Hypervigilance may be part of the new normal for the community."


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