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White Plains Doctor Discusses Emotional Aspects of Metro-North Accident

Dr. Richard Catanzaro, Chief of Psychiatry at Mount Kisco's Northern Westchester Hospital.
Dr. Richard Catanzaro, Chief of Psychiatry at Mount Kisco's Northern Westchester Hospital. Photo Credit: Submitted
Dr. Richard Ellsasser, Director of Psychiatry at White Plains Hospital.
Dr. Richard Ellsasser, Director of Psychiatry at White Plains Hospital. Photo Credit: Submitted

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. --- For many riders, getting back on Metro-North after Tuesday's disastrous accident may be tough. There may be feelings of anxiety and worry.

All of that is normal, agree experts, not only for those on the train but for those who rely on Metro-North daily and their family and loved ones who don't.

"The most important thing is to have people understand that whatever it is they may be experiencing on an emotional level is valid and there is no 'correct' emotional response to tragedy and trauma," said Richard Catanzaro, chief of psychiatry at Mount Kisco's Northern Westchester Hospital. "People should be given space to express their emotions, but not made to feel defective or abnormal if they are not prepared or able to do so."

Richard Ellsasser, director of psychiatry at White Plains Hospital agreed. "Metro-North is many people's lifeline ... they are traveling back and forth on it everyday and most of us use public transportation almost blindly. You get on and you feel safe and you recognize the same faces everyday and then something like this happens that disrupts your routine and so it's very normal for people to be shaken up, some more than others."

Something else that needs to be factored in, Ellsasser said: The fact we had back-to-back snowstorms, which had many folks already feeling a little anxious so this, he said, added to stress levels.

He advises getting back to your normal routine, including riding the first car of the train if that's your preferred seat.

“How best to cope will be a very individual choice," Catanzaro said. "For some, this might mean, getting back to work and riding the train. For others, they may need time to process this event and grieve both alone and with others. For others still, it may mean seeking professional help."

Sandra Nohavicka, one of Northern Westchester's social work directors, is, in fact, trying to see whether there might be a need/desire for a community support group to talk about peoples’ reaction to this tragedy.

Communication is key, both doctors stressed. If you'etre feeling overly anxious or upset, talk to your doctor, even your primary care physician, Ellsasser said.

"Sometimes people try to push through these things when in reality, they may need more time to process them," he said.

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