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Helping Anxious Workers Cope With Tragedy

In the wake of disaster, many Wall Streeters are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. But help is available for most.
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In the wake of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, many people feel anxious. But for employees of the nation's largest brokerages, fears and worries could be particularly acute. Hopelessness, disassociation, panic -- these are just a few of the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wall Street workers who feel this way are not alone. And for most, help is available. In fact, nearly every company affected by Tuesday's tragic events has made mental health professionals and services widely available to employees.

"For a lot of people, this is a second family," said Selena Morris, a

Merrill Lynch


spokeswoman. Of Merrill's 68,000 employees, about 9,000 worked in downtown Manhattan, directly across the street from the World Trade Center, before the terrorist attacks. And like a family, Merrill has been tending to those employees emotionally affected by the tragedy, offering a phone hotline they can call at any time to talk to someone.

But the help hasn't stopped there. Merrill Lynch offers group-counseling sessions right in the office.

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (The) Report

has taken similar steps, as has nearly every Wall Street firm.

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Even nonfinancial companies and those outside of New York are offering help. Boston-based

Fidelity Investments

has group counseling available for its employees, while media and communications company

Vivendi Universal

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has a hotline and in-office group counseling.

In addition, a good number of major companies provide a wellness center that offers prenatal care, nutritional advice and support for the general health of employees. After the terrorist attacks, wellness centers like Goldman's publicized the various ways people can find help to feel better.

At smaller companies, however, some employees might not find such an array of mental health services. But support is still there for those employees, too. A call to the health insurance company can refer them to appropriate places. Or they can just walk into an emergency room, where psychologists are on hand to calm frightened people.

Companies affected by the terrorist attacks encourage employees not only to seek help if they need it, but also to take action. Helping the recovery process at the attack site is one of the many suggestions. "If you can't go down there and personally dig through the rubble, you can still do something," Morris said. Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Vivendi have matched employee donations to a fund for the recovery process. In addition, some companies have organized blood drives and donation boxes for food, clothing and supplies.

"This touched us personally," Morris said. "We're all shocked. We're all saddened."