Steve Buscemi health: ‘It’s still with me’ – Actor on his PTSD after volunteering on 9/11
PTSD: Common symptoms to look out for explained by expert
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Before becoming a big-time actor, Buscemi, 64, was a firefighter in the 1980s in Manhattan’s Little Italy. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks of 2001, the star was quick to put his uniform back on and serve alongside his old colleagues – those that were still alive. He helped with recovery and rescue for five days. But during a recent podcast appearance, the star revealed that his work came with a harsh toll on his health.
On Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Buscemi, who is famous for films like Monster’s Inc and Armageddon, was asked whether he suffered any health problems as a result of his five days volunteering.
He said: “I haven’t experienced any health issues, and I get myself checked out, but definitely…. Post traumatic stress? Absolutely.
“I was only there for like five days, but when I stopped going and tried to just live my life again, it was really, really hard.
“I was depressed, I was anxious, I couldn’t make a simple decision. All those things. It’s still with me.”
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PTSD, is a mental health condition, characterised by a set of severe symptoms, which is triggered when someone experiences “an actual threat of annihilation” or sees “someone else being annihilated”, according to Besser Van Der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps The Score and professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.
The symptoms people develop after a traumatic experience, such as anxiety, and insomnia can go on for a long-time.
“Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt,” states the NHS.
For Buscemi, conversations about 9/11 in particular trigger him to relive his experiences.
“There are times when I talk about 9/11 and I’m right back there. I start to get choked up and I realise, ah, this is still a big part of me,” he added.
Shortly after the terrorist attack, which would go on to kill 2,977 and injure more than 6,000, Buscemi had learned that five of his friends were missing. He also heard that he had lost a friend he used to work with.
He decided to go to Ground Zero and find his old team.
“I was driven to the site that day, walked around for hours, and then found my company, found Engine 55 working there. I asked if I could join them.
“I could tell they were a little suspicious at first, but I worked with them that day.”
For around a decade, the star has been working with Friends of Firefighters which provides mental health services for those in his old industry.
Research published after the Al-Qaeda attacks found elevated rates of PTSD in the general US population. It jumped from 4.3 percent of the population to 17 percent. The study attributed this to indirect exposure through the media.
Another study found an elevated risk of PTSD for the fire-fighters of 9/11, suggesting Buscemi isn’t the only one who developed an inner turmoil after the event.
The symptoms of PTSD include insomnia and difficulty concentrating but they tend to be persistent.
The reaction to traumatic events can be diverse, as Van Der Kolk points out in his bestselling book.
Some experience a heightened sense of panic whenever something reminds them of the traumatic event, while others may be emotionally shut off.
If you think you or someone you know might be suffering from PTSD, there is an NHS webpage that allows you to find an NHS psychological therapy service.
A GP may refer you, or you can refer yourself directly without a referral.
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