We know very well that natural disasters are unexpected, overwhelming, and sudden. For most of us, we learn about such natural disaster through TV, news, movies or books but fortunately not through direct experience. All these depiction are dramatic snapshots of lives, events, and heroism, but rarely do they show us the horrible and long-term impact of disasters on mental and psychological health of victims. While we may share some of financial, environmental, and cultural impact of these disasters but we did not consider the psychological impact of these disasters on victims. In the wake of the Nepal earthquake, uttrakhand and Chennai flood we have seen that People have lost their loved ones or their homes. Everything that ties people to their past including friends, peers, family members, home, is gone. They may have to live in the camps or shelters without the support from family, relatives or friends for extended time periods. The present example is Chennai flood. These types of disasters bring victims a feeling of being betrayed by “their god,” which result in a loss of faith in god. As a result they feel helpless and hopeless. Grief and crying is the normal response to the loss of a loved one but these types of disasters brings complicated grief. Complicated grief means inability to proceed with life, suicidal attempts, lose of voice, preoccupation with the loss, preoccupation with sorrow, loss of consciousness and hopelessness about the future.
Common psychological reaction of victims after disaster:
- Flashbacks: repeated memories of the painful event that lead to physical reactions such as rapid heartbeat, heart attack, loss of consciousness, sweating, intense fear etc
- Intense fear that these type disaster will be repeated.
- Irritability, intense anxiety, stress, mood swings and depression.
- Loss of memory
- Suicidal attempts
- Physical symptoms such as nausea, tics, gastrointestinal upset, dizziness, choking or smothering sensations, headaches and chest pain
- Impaired recall of words with no impairment of comprehension
- concentration problems, difficulty in decision making and confusing trivial with major issues
- Difficulty in sleeping and eating.
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most commonly identified disorder that can occurs after exposure to a disaster like in Chennai, uttrakhand and Nepal. PTSD is characterized by hyper arousal and re-experiencing of the traumatic event.
- Depression, panic disorder, phobia, drug and alcohol use.
Even when the people who did not hurt physically but become part of it, disasters can take a serious mental issues such as intense, unpredictable feelings; trouble concentrating or making decisions; ;flashbacks ; emotional upsets on anniversaries or other reminders; disrupted eating and sleeping pattern; strained personal relationships;
At this point, it is difficult to estimate the psychological and mental health fall-out from Chennai flood but the level of destruction suggests that direct and indirect effects will be felt. We only consider the immediate threat of these disasters washing people away as the source of trauma. In actual fact, the greater source of persistent distress comes from the more subtle long-term effects of these types of disasters.