The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a natural disaster as a “sudden ecological event with a substantial amount of external assistance.”
“Natural disasters are traumatic life events, and therefore, extremely heavy,” said Tanushree Baker Talekar, Clinical Psychologist, Masina Hospital. “These happen in large quantities, and are often unpredictable,” he added.
Exploring the nature of such outbreaks, a June 2022 study By the University of California, Irvine focused on the indirect, direct, and media-based exposure of Hurricane Irma and Michael, which struck the United States in 2017 and 2018, respectively. It has found post traumatic stress (PTSD), depression, and symptoms Anxiety Was identified, with general ongoing fear and anxiety in the study population. This further indicates the link between natural disasters and adverse psychological problems, which has raised concerns about the impact of seasonal events on mental health.
“Most people will recover and demonstrate resilience over time. However, as climate-related catastrophic storms and other natural disasters such as wildfires and heat waves increase, this natural healing process may be hampered by repeated hazards,” University of California, Irvine, and its first Author Dana Rose Garfin mentioned. Study.
Thus, recent natural disasters such as floods (in Assam, affecting more than 4.5 million people), earthquakes (in Afghanistan, more than 1,000 deaths), cyclones (in the Sundarbans and surrounding areas), Heat waves Experts in Iran, Spain, and parts of the United States explain the relationship between natural disasters and mental health and what to do.
According to the 2011 review title of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Outbreaks for public health and their consequences“Outbreaks directly affect the health of the population resulting in physical trauma, acute illness, and emotional trauma. In addition, outbreaks can affect the health care system and increase morbidity and mortality associated with chronic diseases and infectious diseases.”
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Notably, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) states that “disasters do not affect people equally” because their effects vary from person to person and region to region, even under normal circumstances Do not receive support and are at risk of “both physical and psychological difficulties.”
Loss of resources, loss of daily routine, lack of control over one’s own property and loss of social support were associated with high levels of acute psychological distress, the 2019-Review of Literature from NCBI noted.
Why are natural disasters a concern?
NCBI’s research also points to mental health problems, in general, especially in India, given the stigma involved and is considered a neglected subject. Mental health problems caused by disasters are increasingly ignored. Therefore, to fill this gap, it is necessary to understand more about outbreaks and mental health. The psychiatrist of Citizens Specialty Hospital, Dr. Dipti Reddy Nallu said, “The loss of social and economic resources has been acknowledged by the victims and the community, but the recognition of psychological suffering has often been tarnished or ignored.”
According to the 2020 book Public Health and Disaster: Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management in AsiaThe 1999 Odisha Super Cyclone, which affected more than 10,000 people, triggered several studies on mental health risks. (Carr et al., 2004) And PTSD (Sharan et al., 1996; Carr et al., 2007). The Indian Ocean tsunami (2004) that killed 10,000 people in India and left many homeless brought further research into mental health and psychosocial care for adults. (Baker, 2007, Sharan et al., 1996) And women (Baker, 2009) survivors of the disaster.
The National Disaster Management Guideline states that the psychological trauma and subsequent experiences caused by disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis can be serious for the majority of the population. Psychological-social support and mental health services in disasters. “The greater the trauma, the greater the psychological trauma and social disability,” it said.
Not only that, NCBI How various studies have interpreted, for example, also notes the physical and psychological health effects of floods. People suffering from physical health effects such as colds, coughs, flu, sore throats, or sore throats and headaches, skin rashes, gastrointestinal diseases, chest diseases, hypertension, asthma during and after floods also experience psychological stress.
Even if support systems are compromised, the impact could be even more long-lasting and devastating, said psychologist Kamana Chibber. “People are known to develop mental health-related illnesses such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia, to name a few because of such phenomena,” Chibber said. indianexpress.com.
In psychological terms, such disasters can affect people in the short and long term. Agreeing with Chibber, Talekar described the psychological toll as “can last for years.” “Survivors go through intense emotions such as trauma, pain, confusion and distrust,” Talekar added.
It can also trigger substance dependence, and adjustment problems that affect the proper functioning of the individual as well as the community that leads to family conflict, according to the NCBI.
What can be done
The first will always be medical help as soon as possible and provide realistic solutions to cope. “These will be practical things related to where people need to go, access to medical services, food, shelter, etc. The availability of information is important to ensure that people do not fall into terror and feel they are led in peace, ensuring their safety and security.” It was collected in such a way, ”said Chibber.
Accordingly NDMAIndia’s Mental Health Response in Disasters “Developed to strengthen the coping capacity of survivors in the community by identifying and treating individual psychiatric cases. (Kishore Kumar etc., 2000)The National Mental Health Program (NMHP) includes strategies for this Psychosocial care and mental health services In Disasters (PSMHS). Acknowledging the psychological impact of natural disasters is the first step in tackling the strategy, Dr Reddy Nallu emphasized.
The NDMA guidelines aim to improve the coping capacity of affected communities by providing appropriate assistance to rebuild their lives. Service networks consist of psychiatric units of tertiary health care facilities, and educational institutions, clinical psychologists, social workers, NGOs, paramedical professionals, community level workers, and volunteers.
“Providing real-time practical solutions to the problems we face can help us to be optimistic and flexible and supportive of coping,” Chibber said.
“Assurance through the presence of helpful others can go a long way in helping individuals. Continuing to encourage people to discuss their experiences is a must that enables them to share, express and gain perspective,” she said.
Psychiatrist Dr. Samir Parekh said. He said that instead of shutting down emotions, trying to share experiences with people who may have had a similar or similar experience can help. “Individual, group counseling, and / or medications can help cope with social interactions as well as traumatic events, respectively,” he said.
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