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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

For traumatized survivors, mental health experts say biggest need is normalcy

News canada.com network: "Based on studies of previous disasters, the World Health Organization estimates that many tsunami survivors will have already recovered emotionally; it says 40-50 per cent are still suffering but with some psychological first aid most will heal in a few months. Up to 10 per cent, however, could become stuck in perpetual panic, crippling anxiety, sleep disorders, alcohol abuse, severe depression or, in extreme cases, post-traumatic stress disorder.

The key to minimizing the number is to restore normality as quickly as possible. 'These people don't need counselling,' said Dr. Shekhar Saxena, a WHO mental health expert based in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. 'Their capacity to recover will depend on how quickly the development aid gets to them - how quickly they get houses, jobs and return to normal life. If you can't do that, you have continued trauma and the things that brings - alcohol abuse, suicides, violence and mental illness.'

Experts say natural disasters, which indiscriminately affect entire communities but are over quickly, are easier to deal with emotionally than lingering wars because the frightening thing - the earthquake or wave - ends, whereas in war people live with fear day after day.
Communities find the energy to rebuild after a natural disaster, experts said, and harnessing that solidarity is part of the strategy for healing.

Many of the tsunami survivors, especially those living in camps, are now dependent on aid groups for necessities they used to provide for themselves. How the aid groups deal with this fact can affect psychological healing, particularly among men. In the relief camps around the Sri Lankan city of Batticaloa, which was hit hard by the tsunami, women cook and look after the children. The men are often left idle, and are turning to gambling and alcohol, said Dr. Mahesan Ganesan, a psychiatrist there. Child abuse and domestic violence are creeping up. " More

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