Those without physical injuries may be mentally scarred, and it is important to pay attention to signs of trauma
I hope you are all taking care of each other. Last Saturday’s earthquake has affected millions of Nepalis. Experiencing and dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster is traumatising for many people. Witnessing loved ones lose their lives and their homes can cause severe and persistent posttraumatic stress and grief. Aftershocks are common and they tend to bring back bad memories of the incident. Sometimes sights, sounds and sensations can remind people of the earthquake and cause mental distress. The lucky ones do survive without any physical injuries but may be mentally scarred, and some may exhibit aggressive behaviour or be more withdrawn. It is important to pay attention to signs of trauma and provide support as needed. Families can help each other and if needed, they should reach out to mental health professionals.
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My 12-year old daughter is getting nightmares after the earthquake and keeps asking me if we will die after every tremor. I try to reassure her that we will all be fine and we will not die but even I am not sure. I keep hearing about there being more powerful earthquakes. How do I make sure that she is not traumatised for life?
AR: I am so sorry that your daughter is having a very difficult time after the earthquake, but it is quite natural for children and adults to have such reactions after going through a very traumatic experience. In case of younger children, they can be more resilient than adults because they tend to be able to cope and recover more easily than adults after experiencing or witnessing extensive trauma. With sleeping outside and not having power, routine gets disrupted. Now that we have fewer aftershocks, it is important you get back to your regular routine as soon as possible to start getting used to your old way of life. Try talking to your daughter and explain it to her that you are now safe, but need to be careful as always. It is not necessary to tell young children every detail that you hear about potential earthquakes. There have been stories about what may happen. Earthquakes cannot be predicted. One important thing I would stress on is that children’s functioning and reactions do get influenced by the way the parents or adults react, as children look up to adults. Children tend to do best when parents remain or at least appear to remain calm and respond to the children’s questions. It is necessary to address these concerns of nightmares from an early stage so it does not deteriorate over time. Some local organisations are training volunteers with trauma related psychosocial training, so hopefully there will be enough resources and support available as it will be necessary after the dust of the earthquake settles. Good luck.
Anjana is a certified mental health rehabilitation technician and has four years of experience in adult mental health in Maine, USA.
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