Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

The Green Cross Project: A Model for Providing Emergency Mental-Health Aid after September 11

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

The Green Cross Project: A Model for Providing Emergency Mental-Health Aid after September 11

Article excerpt

The Green Cross Project: A Model for Providing Emergency Mental-Health Aid after September 11.

The September 11 attack on the United States awakened in all Americans the reality of modern life and our vulnerability to danger and trauma. The purpose of this article is to describe the efforts of the Green Cross Projects (GCP) in responding to the attack by helping those immediately affected in New York City. The GCP was established in 1995 in response to the Oklahoma City bombing to provide disaster mental-health training, education, and services to those in need. The GCP emerged over the ensuing years as a membership-based, humanitarian-assistance program providing traumatology services to individuals, groups, and communities recovering from disasters and other traumatic events (Figley, 1997).

Within hours of the attack, the GCP was mobilized to provide mental-health services to survivors in New York City's lower Manhattan. For the next month, GCP volunteers worked with several thousand people to help them overcome their immediate disorientation and help prevent the expected posttraumatic stress reactions that might develop into potentially disabling mental disorders. This article tells the story of the efforts of the GCP and provides a primer for others who have helped or wish to help those victimized by terrorism.


The mission of the GCP is to provide immediate trauma intervention to any area of our world when a crisis occurs. Most often GCP members provide humanitarian service in their local communities through either an individual effort or a mobilization. However, GCP is unique in its ability to activate large numbers of trained traumatologists to respond to major disasters, such as the one that struck lower Manhattan, New York City, on September 11.


Any organization providing assistance must be very clear about what the affected community needs and wants. Immediately following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Charles Figley met with public and private officials to determine what would be most needed by those responsible for helping the bombing victims, their families, the rescue workers, and others affected. It was determined that training was the most acute need. Within a few months more than a thousand professionals received at least one workshop of training, and fifty-eight completed the entire five-course program of training and received a certificate as a Registered Traumatologist (Figley, 1998).

Those Registered Traumatologists became the founding members of the GCP and were ready to apply the lessons that they had learned both in the classroom and in their own state in helping people recover from a terrorist attack. As it turned out, Oklahoma sent one of the largest contingents of GCP traumatologists to New York, second only to Florida.

The program of training that they had completed was adopted by Florida State University's Traumatology Institute as the Certified Traumatologist certificate program (Figley, 1998). Over the years the Institute established three other certifications: Master Traumatologist, Field Traumatologist, and Compassion-Fatigue Specialist. With certification comes automatic membership in the GCP. Members practice traumatology guided by the Academy of Traumatology standards of practice and ethical guidelines (Figley, 1999). The GCP web site ( informs members throughout the world. During the New York City mobilization, for example, on the website were updates on what was happening, copies of various messages to members, press releases, news accounts, and other helpful information for those who had been activated as well as others who were interested.


The goal of every GCP deployment is to transform "victims into survivors." Immediately after a traumatic event, victims attempt to address five fundamental questions (Figley, 1985):

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