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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

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Traumatic experiences such as the earthquake disaster we live in affect individuals and cause a social trauma. Social trauma can have its effects across generations. Being aware of the possible effects of this situation is an important step in protecting ourselves and our society and starting to heal our wounds. Hiwell Expert Psychologist M. Can Hasateş and Hiwell Content Manager Psychologist Can Anarat talked about what should not be forgotten after the great pain we went through.

What kind of a path should be followed for our citizens who experienced the disaster in the earthquake region?
First of all, the basic needs of our citizens who have experienced the earthquake, such as shelter, clothing and nutrition, should be met, and after these basic needs, earthquake victims should be provided with psychological support by trained experts in the field of disaster/trauma.

At the same time, it is very important for the mental health of earthquake survivors that all officials who will serve earthquake victims in the fields of health, education, shelter and social support are included in psychoeducation programs about disaster/trauma so that they can communicate based on psychological first aid rules. These trainings are also valuable for the officers to protect themselves.

What should be the attitude towards children who have experienced this disaster?
The basic need of children after disasters such as earthquakes and earthquakes is to feel safe. In addition, the calmness and consistency of adults who will communicate with children is one of the most important points of being able to support them.

It is necessary to inform the child about what happened in a way that they can understand, taking into account the age group, and to give correct and simple answers to their questions. It is very important to explain to children what natural disasters are and how they occur in a language that they can understand.

In addition, it will be useful to encourage children to listen to them when they want to tell about their experiences and to tell them about their feelings and experiences. Adults need to describe events without exaggeration and without using negative or catastrophic expressions. It will also be very useful for adults to express that they understand children by sharing their feelings with children, and to hold their hands and make them feel that they are not alone by using sentences such as ‘I am with you, you are safe now’.

What should be the right approach to those who have experienced this trauma?
The fact that earthquake survivors have to recount the traumatic memory in the institutions they apply for help or support may negatively affect their motivation to reach the help or support services they request. For this reason, every personnel in the institutions that will serve the earthquake victims should approach that person without forgetting that “re-experiencing the negative features of the trauma” may lead to the experience.

The principles used in the first communication moments of the victims after their transition to a safe area are called psychological first aid. While communicating with earthquake victims, without forcing them too much;
● To provide a sense of physical and psychological security,
● To create a quiet, safe, low-stimulus environment,
● To remind their skills and competencies,
● It would be very helpful to pay attention to supporting their social ties and sense of belonging to a group.

How to relieve everyone’s anxiety after an earthquake?
It is very normal for a person to feel sadness, helplessness, anxiety and even guilt after an earthquake. Millions of people were affected by this extraordinary disaster and experienced many negative feelings at the same time. However, anxiety differs from other feelings in terms of time. While feelings of sadness or guilt focus on the event, the state of anxiety arises with the fear of another earthquake that may occur in the future. Moreover, since we are an earthquake country, this anxiety can be triggered every day by news of small earthquakes in different regions. The uncertainty of an earthquake, whose timing and magnitude is unknown, is among the main factors that feed this concern.

Although scientists are working on this issue, it is unfortunately not possible to eliminate the uncertainty. This post-earthquake anxiety can be overcome by making peace with uncertainty and being prepared for this possibility. Because being prepared is a very effective method of relieving the anxiety created by the uncertainty of a real threat. For this too:
● Preparing a comprehensive earthquake kit,
● Making an emergency escape and assembly plan with family members,
● To determine the regions where the triangle of life can occur in the house where you live and to create new spaces,
● Keeping the earthquake kit in the nearest life triangle area of ​​the bed,
● Have the house earthquake risk analysis done,
● Reinforcing or relocating the building when necessary will be beneficial in terms of reducing the concerns.

Although it is not always possible to implement some of these items, it may be possible to make peace with the uncertainty experienced by being ready for possible scenarios by putting most of them into practice. Anxiety will gradually decrease over time by taking the necessary precautions. It would be beneficial for children to be included in these preparation processes in order to reduce their post-earthquake anxiety.

In times of intense anxiety, deep and calm breaths taken from the nose and given through the mouth will help to reduce the anxiety experienced quickly and naturally.

How to deal with stress in this disaster that everyone is experiencing?
Of the negative and sad situations, it is not only those who personally experience the event; relatives, witnesses or assisting victims may be exposed to stress or trauma.

As in every psychological difficulty, many factors such as the way of experiencing stress, duration of exposure, severity, mental state and living conditions, personality traits in this earthquake disaster; It reveals the behaviors, emotions and thoughts that people who are exposed to this stress may exhibit.

The stress experienced during this sad event; It can be long-lasting, severe, unpredictable and uncontrollable. This can raise the risk of trauma. An environment where there are inconsistencies and predictable and controlled conditions cannot be provided after the event can cause the stress experienced to deepen.

By creating a peaceful, calm and safe environment, the existence of a certain order helps to soothe and calm both the mind and the body. For this reason, being in a safe and orderly environment is the first step in reducing the stress experienced.

At the same time, earthquake content seen in newspapers, news channels and social media can put people under more stress. For this reason, it is beneficial to keep news consumption in a way that does not disrupt daily life. In particular, children need to be protected from news and images that can be badly affected.

Finally, participating in the aid and support activities prepared for the earthquake victims in the disaster area will contribute to both the reduction of stress and the recovery of the earthquake victims.

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