1-7 May 2015 #756

Coming out stronger from crisis

Our mountains and temples have been pulverised, but Nepal will rise again
Anjana Rajbhandary
It started like just any other Saturday morning, we were busy preparing for a wedding to go to in the afternoon. But, as they say, ‘it takes an instant to change lifetime’ and at 11.56AM on 25 April that is exactly what happened. The geography of our history crumbled into a pile of dust.

Photo: Nepal Army

In early April, I had taken my overseas friend to all three Darbar Squares and she considered them the most beautiful urban landscapes she had ever seen. Little did we know that it would be the last time we would see them intact. All three historic palaces are now in ruins. Monuments, however, can be rebuilt. The priority now is to save lives – of the trapped, the wounded and the infirm sleeping in the rain and in the open. Could five minutes change so much? Yes, it changed the face of Nepal. But amidst all the news of deaths and destruction, there were also heart-warming stories of generosity, kindness, and altruism.

In horrifying times like this, people still have the innate capacity to overcome hardships and demonstrate a hidden strength to cope. People cope, families cope, communities cope and so do countries. Despite all its problems, Nepal and Nepalis are coping. Our mountains and temples have been pulverised, but Nepal will rise again, we will come out stronger from this crisis. It will take time, but we will get there.

The earthquake is a reminder of trauma and loss, and it is going to affect our future behaviour as individuals and as a nation. Not being able to meet one’s basic needs can affect anyone’s resources and coping skills. People can only tolerate that much, and to cope with the stress some survivors may be more likely to engage in delinquent or careless behaviour and substance abuse.

There will be an increasing number of survivors of the earthquake who will experience post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Major natural calamities like this one cause widespread anxiety, even the slightest movement can remind individuals of the recent disaster create panic and fear.

Apart from dealing with the immediate grief of a relative or friend who died, there is also the shock and dread at having witnessed such a cataclysmic event. Some are wracked with guilt for having survived while a near and dear one perished, others will find it difficult to erase the memory from their minds.

Children are more resilient and may not be as mentally affected as adults, and proof of that is the sight of children playing cricket in the shelters in Kathmandu these past few days, while their parents try to keep them out of the path of falling buildings. Their level of trauma in children depends on the amount of fear and stress the parents or adults themselves exhibit. If parents show fear, the children are afraid. If the parents are stressed, the children are also tense.

Slightly older children and teenagers could be more affected by the fear of death. Seeing destruction at close hand makes a very powerful impact on the lives of young adults. Their lives are forever changed.

Children and adults may have nightmares and sleeping problems, and also have issues with relationships and coping abilities. As adults and parents, it is necessary to support each other. As for parents, be caring as possible, explain to the children what happened without the unnecessary details, and establish a routine as soon as possible and when needed ask for help. Make sure to take care of yourselves in the process. Embrace the emotions, as it is natural to be sad and afraid.

Once the dust settles, we will notice more mental and emotional distress and if left untreated, they can become a bigger problem later. Please meet with a medical or mental health professional if needed. With support, we can help each other overcome the trauma of 25 April.


Read also:

Thanking the Living Goddess for life, Min Ratna Bajracharya

Langtang is gone”, Sahina Shrestha

Teacher’s tragedy, Cynthia Choo

Small is more useful

The earthquake from above, Kunda Dixit

Monumental loss, Stéphane Huët

Microcosm of a calamity, Cynthia Choo and Sonia Awale

Mapping the aftermath, Ayesha Shakya

Believe it, or not, Tsering Dolker Gurung

A slow start, David Seddon

Rising from the dust, From the Nepali Press

Barpak in ruins, From the Nepali Press

Not-so-big One, From the Nepali Press

Surviving Dharara, From the Nepali Press

Surviving trauma

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