Magazine article Insight on the News

The Grief Police: In Response to the Events of Sept. 11, All Members of NYPD Must Undergo Mental-Health Counseling, Raising Concerns That the Tragedy Has Turned into a Bonanza for Overzealous Mental-Health Professionals

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Grief Police: In Response to the Events of Sept. 11, All Members of NYPD Must Undergo Mental-Health Counseling, Raising Concerns That the Tragedy Has Turned into a Bonanza for Overzealous Mental-Health Professionals

Article excerpt

During the Oct. 20 Madison Square Garden "Concert for New York City," a tribute to New York City's finest, Michael Moran of Ladder Company 3 stood before thousands of his peers and tens of millions of TV viewers and left no doubt as to what he thought about the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and about the man responsible. "Osama bin Laden" the hulking firefighter shouted, "you can kiss my wild Irish ass!"

The arena went wild, erupting into applause, laughter and chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A" Moran had lost his older brother and 12 other colleagues in the World Trade Center attacks and simply said publicly what a great many Americans were feeling.

Most mental-health professionals would agree that Moran, saddened and angered by his loss, was ensuring good mental health -- sharing his feelings with others, getting out his anger. Given the positive reception, there seems little doubt that those in the arena and the millions watching the concert at home understood perfectly. In fact, Moran's remarks directed at the Saudi cave dweller were so well received that they were not deleted from the broadcast and are highlighted on the newly released CD of the concert.

Slightly more than a month later, however, New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, apparently concerned about how his 55,000-member force was holding up, announced mandatory mental-health counseling for every member of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), from administrative personnel all the way up to the commissioner himself.

Although the NYPD refused numerous requests by INSIGHT for an interview about the mandatory counseling, press reports say the "mental-health" plan for the nation's largest police force isn't a new one. A similar plan was implemented following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, after which nearly 9,000 participated in some form of mental-health counseling. In fact, the Oklahoma City bombing is cited as precedent when questions are raised with the NYPD about the mandatory counseling. Again and again those asking why this is being done are told by police, political and psychiatric spokesmen to "remember all the rescue workers who committed suicide after the bombing" in Oklahoma City.

But there is little or no data about either the form of counseling provided in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing or the extent to which rescue workers who allegedly committed suicide there did so before or after they had been subjected to the counseling services. There is abundant data, however, about the large amount of federal money made available for mental health after the Oklahoma City tragedy. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government spent almost twice as much on mental-health counseling as on relief -- a whopping $4.1 million, compared with just $1.7 million for housing assistance and $468,000 for replacing personal property.

While the level of care provided by mental-health professionals after the Oklahoma City attack seems impressive, INSIGHT has learned from survivors of the bombing that attending counseling sessions was made a requisite to qualifying for financial assistance. According to one survivor who asked not to be identified, the authorities were careful not to "say we had to go to counseling, but we didn't get any financial assistance until we did. They just kept suggesting that we go every time we sat down to talk about the various benefits." She tells INSIGHT that after her first counseling session she was put on two different mind-altering drugs. Critics of the mental-health profession's growing reliance on psychotropic remedies tell INSIGHT they fear this may be in store for New York City's finest. Advocates say they see it as a check against crazed officers running amok.

The driving force behind the call for mandatory counseling is concern that the tragic events of Sept. …

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