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Tipper Gore: Daily alerts 'exhausting' for mental health

Tipper Gore: Daily alerts 'exhausting' for mental health

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

More than eight months since the events of September 11th, many people are still grappling with the emotion and anxiety resulting from that day. Longtime mental health advocate Tipper Gore spoke with CNN's Paula Zahn about the issue.

PAULA ZAHN: It seems to me that it's time for us all to grow up. I mean, we now know that a third of all New Yorkers are suffering from some kind of posttraumatic stress syndrome. Does that make any sense to you at all?

TIPPER GORE: Well, I think the reason they haven't or they might be reluctant, and it's a false reason, it's one that I would hope to disavow them of, but they may feel that they're going to be labeled or stigmatized if they seek help. And that's one of the problems that we've always had with mental health care.

And we need to get rid of it. We need to make it go away, because mental health care is part of health care. Certainly, we know that when there is a trauma, a normal response to this abnormal situation includes posttraumatic stress disorder. Higher levels of anxiety, depression, a number of things that come under mental health. And what we also know is when we intervene early, when the right diagnosis is -- when someone can say, "Oh, this is what is going on with you, and this is what you need to do in order to feel better" -- it might be some therapy, it might be a support group, it might be some medication, it may be a combination of those. It may just be being able to talk about it with a community group or a place of worship. But recognizing that you need some help, not being afraid to go and get it, is extremely important. And I, too, Paula, would like to think that we are there.

ZAHN: The challenge, though, is trying to figure out how to live in this constant state of alert and then be instructed to go about life as normal. Do you understand why everybody's equilibrium is a bit messed up right now?

Tipper champions mental health

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"The new reality seems to be that we have a new attack alert issued almost on a daily basis. And what that does is that puts us all into a heightened state of readiness and alert, which is a bit exhausting."
— Tipper Gore

GORE: Well, I do understand. The new reality seems to be that we have a new attack alert issued almost on a daily basis. And what that does is that puts us all into a heightened state of readiness and alert, which is a bit exhausting.

And the other thing that's a little concerning to me is they're not really telling us what to do. And I would like to know that. I would like to know that as a mother. I would just like to know that because I like to have a plan of action. So I think it's true that not only here in New York, but around the country, people are living in higher states of anxiety.

ZAHN: Do you think it's been irresponsible for members of the Bush administration to share these very unspecific warnings with the public?

GORE: I'm not going to say whether I think it's responsible or irresponsible. All I can do is comment on the fact that I'm experiencing this and I know other people are as well. And they're talking about it. An alert a day, practically. It's not very specific.

Americans want the information. We want to know what's going on. But then we want to be told what to do. And if you frighten someone, but you don't give them a solution to that frightened state, then you leave them anxious, frightened, wondering what to do, pulling on their inner reserves of resilience and resolve and being strong and united.

Well, I think Americans have shown that we are all of those things. But what is that we are supposed to do to prepare for the next attack should it happen?

ZAHN: So if your husband were president right now, what would he be doing differently?

GORE: He's not, and that's not the issue. This is really beyond -- Paula, listen, I don't want to talk about what he would be doing differently. I mean, obviously, he's a different person and has different approaches, so he would be doing probably everything somewhat differently. I mean I can answer you that.

But I think that it's important that we -- that all of us understand that there are real ramifications here when we are put on alert. And if people are expected to live in a heightened state of fear and anxiety and resolve and resilience, we do have to give answers to our children, to our aging parents, to others who are looking to us and families in terms of "OK, what do we do next?" I think that the powers that be have a responsibility to be forthcoming with that kind of information as well as other kind of information.

ZAHN: Speaking of planning, how close is your husband to making a decision whether he will run or not again for president?

GORE: We're working very hard on finishing a book on families that is due to come out in November. And so, honestly, he hasn't thought about that decision right now. And he doesn't have time to think about that decision right now.

ZAHN: Hindsight is a wonderful luxury to have. When you look back on your husband's defeat, can you think of one thing that he should have done differently that might have helped him win in his home state, for an example?

GORE: I think that he ran a terrific campaign, and I think most people don't probably give credit to the hundreds and hundreds of people who worked in states all over this nation in order to elect him, because he was the voice, the spokesperson for their point of view. And I am so proud of the way he ended the stalemate. I'm so proud of the way that he conceded and let the country go on and become healed and whole.

And I'm so proud of the fact that he won the majority of votes in this country, because that says to me that everything that he talked about -- you know, civil rights and women's rights and inclusion and caring about the environment -- all of those things are the kinds of things that most of the American people cared about. And that's the direction they wanted to see the country go in.




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