First responders show up on the front lines every day, putting themselves in harm’s way to keep their communities safe. As a result, these individuals are at increased risk of poor mental health and suicide, with more than half of first responders in the US seeking medical help due to stress and strained mental health. At Movember, we are committed to creating space for important conversations around mental health in the first responder community and ensuring these individuals receive the necessary support to take care of their mental and physical health.
As we recognize the 20th anniversary of September 11th and remember the many heroes who served that day, we are honored to share the story and experiences of Mo legend Salvatore Banchitta, retired member of the FDNY and one of the first firefighters to arrive at Ground Zero. This story was written by Sal and edited by Lennard M. Gettz.
Time does not heal all wounds; to survive the painful ones, it is up to find positive and even productive ways to contain them. 20 years later, Ground Zero continues to burn significant emotions stemmed from the major loss of life to the ‘sucker punch’ on our country and the countless traumatic images that will never be forgotten. The fire service trained us with tools to manage many of them, but no one was ever prepared for the sensory effects of that day.
Depending on whom you ask, everyone carries their own version of 9/11 and no two are ever going to be exactly the same. Speaking for myself and fellow ex-responders, visiting the museum and that entire area continues to carry a permanent weight of distress. Unlike the many tourists and museum visitors who give their version of respect to such a beautiful memorial, we continue to LIVE with it as sacred burial ground of our own, and in many ways, of a part of ourselves.
Adding 20 years to that day elevates new value to the messages of 9/11. I believe it brought us together as a country in such a powerful way. It continues to drive my appreciation for seeing a sunrise each and every day, all my loved ones and life in its entirety. And yet the hurt continues to feel the same for those who lost loved ones (especially in the fire service) as I watch our responders continue to dwindle each year from service-related cancers. All this falls into a deep sense of humility each time I reflect on the entire event-one that I try to convert into a supportive hand for anyone who struggles with their physical and emotional battles with 9/11.
Movember looks at mental health through a male lens, focusing on prevention, early intervention and health promotion. We’re working towards a world where men take action to be mentally well, and are supported by those around them.
Learn more about our Veterans and First Responders Mental Health Grant Program and other mental health resources.