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Trauma after Earthquake

Mitigating psychosocial and Mental effects

A more than 7.6 Richter Scale earthquake hit in Nepal claiming more than 8000 lives and 15000
injured. Nepal beared a huge loss of lives and infrastructure .Now we all common people , are in
tremendious pressure at post quake period .Still we are feeling earthquake tremor of small
magnitude.There is a big challenge in mitigating the psychosocial and mental effects.People are out
of their houses they are facing many more challenges and living in tents .Individual need support in
trying to minimize the effects of earthquake .First they need to understand normalcy of changes they
experience in their feeling .Second they need help in mastering these changes .Third they need help to
rebuild their lives in least disruptive manner.In India following the Marathawada and Gujrat
Earthquake efforts were made to try to understand the impact of earthquake on mental health of
affected population, as well as to develop intervention tp mitigate these effects.

The psychological effect was also described in in book of "The Earthquake in Nepal"of 1934 AD by
Brahma Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana .The effects were severe and the people thought the world is
going to end and most effected were women and he also described that positive aspect of
earthquake that a feeling of self-dependence and dependence upon other countries is not always
advantageous and must rely on home products .

Importantly there are different phases of Psychosocial intervention.Predisaster phase is very


important in earthquake prone areas.Preparion is made for earthquake -resistant structure and
prepare for community and people for disaster.There is another phases of disaster usually called of
initial phase which normally last for one to four weeks .This is a period of intense disruption in the
lives of the affected individuals.A lot of immediate relief activities in terms of food ,clothing
.shelter,security and medical care are provided by various groups both governmental and non
governmental.There are separated from family e who would have lost relatives ,experienced
injuries,been separated from family the need is for crisis intervention.The lack of sensitivity to
psychosocial problem leads to various types of other complications.

After the trauma of earthquake there is another important phase of one to six month which is
assumed is the most important phase for mental health intervention.Often the first six weeks are
described as honeymoon period .Soon after this , individual have to face reality of rebuilding their
lives and coming to terms with their losses.Psychosocial reaction are common in this phase everyone
experiences anxiety, depression,panic and other related symtoms during this phase.A lesson was
learnt of Marathawada earthquake of 30 september of 1993 a magnitude of lesser than our 25 april a
magnitude of 6.4, approximately of 8000 people died and 14000 injured and 34000 building suffered
various types of damages.The earthquake resulted total destruction of 67000 villages while other 886
villages were experienced their damages.The impact of disaster was multidimensional.
The fragile mental health of affected women and children needs to strenthenthrough progamme of
psychosocial rehabilitation.Medication and counseling are very important.There is a great lesson of
Gujrat Earthquake ,on 2001 january 2001 an earthquake of 7.7 on the Richter scale .The earthquake
resulted a death of 20000 and 167000 injured and destruction of one million home and affected of
15.9 million people.These are similar effects which we recently observed in our earthquake.Post-
traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) was observed at that time among them 57.6 percent were women .

A survey of of distress among hospitalized trauma patients at civil hospital ,Ahmedabad showed that
131 of 151 patients had scored four or more indicating significant distress on mental health screening
questionnaire .This is a significant psychosocial disorder we have to face.A number of programme
were launchedto mitigate this disorder launching by UNICEF team.Psychiatrists were invoved to
recover and the training programme were launched.This period is very important for mental health
councelling to restore the normal life.Relief and rehabilitation phase is important in this case .The
media are important part of disaster activities.It is the media that brings to attention the human side
of disaster.Due to lack of correct information and due to mental people may frustruate to their
lives.Based on these experiences mental health should be an accepted agenda of disaster and
community participatuion is important in post disaster rebuilding.Psychosocial care is an essential
part in post-disaster response in preventing adverse effect.The emotional reaction are normal among
the the survivals in an abonormal situations.

Post -eartquake events and developments are important in achieving full recovery.Everyone who goes
through earthquake needs psychosocial care.It is a survival right.There lies a big advantages in
extending psychosocial care.Mental health professional can bring the best of their skills and
knowledge to benefit the affected population.

Umesh Prasad Ojha

Senior Engineer
Biratnagar