Nimhans: 10% flood victims can develop mental illness

Nimhans: 10% flood victims can develop mental illness

Picture for representation

While news reports emerge that Kerala could take several months to bounce back from the horrific floods, doctors at Nimhans say 10% of those affected could suffer from mental health issues.

With parts of the state also badly deluged, Dr Sekar, head of the Department of Psychiatric Social Work at the institute, said the number of victims suffering from mental and psychological conditions could be brought down with timely medical intervention and support.

"The flood would have left a psychological impact on 90% of the victims. The disaster would replay in their minds causing panic and anxiety," Dr Sekar said.

"When they interact with the co-survivors, they will share their stories and remember their loved ones, the cattle and their house being washed away. Roughly, 10% would be deeply affected and it would take time for them to overcome this," he added. 

Dr Sekar said his department has been involved in offering "psycho-social support" programmes and would help flood victims of all ages. The children will especially react differently in the restricted environment in the relief camps. So, they would be engaged in activities like drawing, games and recreational activities, where they would recall how they survived the floods.

"Similarly, the elders will also be stricken by grief and guilt. They'd be asking 'why me'.  Our team will be addressing such issues," Dr Sekar said.

With the Kerala government approaching the department for help, it has already despatched an eight-member team. It has deployed 14 psychiatrists in 14 flood-ravaged districts.

On Tuesday, it also sent a 20-member team of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers and nurses. The department will also send a four-member team to Kodagu.

Dr Sekar said the route to recovery for the flood victims will be a long one. "The people of Kerala, among the flood victims, have a lot of resilience," he said. "They will bounce back early. Our team will train locals in Kerala and Kodagu on providing psycho-social support to the affected. This will be a continuous effort," he added.

The state health department is engaging flood victims in relief camps of Kodagu with recreational activities and screening movies. Department officials are looking up to motivational speakers to address the victims and help them overcome their grief.