U'khand victims also in need of psychological help: Doctors

While rescue operations and medical care for the victims of Uttarakhand disaster appear to be in full swing, other presumably less important factors related to the calamity, have stayed in the back seat.

With very little or no attention paid to psychological first aid for those people, psychologists in the city said it must be on priority list as the mental trauma lingers on for very long.

Panic attacks

“Victims of such disasters can have nightmares, panic attacks, excessive sadness and even death wishes,” said Dr Sunil Mittal of Delhi Psychiatric Centre.

“In the weeks and months to come, many survivors will continue to have acute stress reaction and suffer psychotic breakdown,” he added.

According to a study published in Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, close to 80 per cent of people affected by the 2008 Bihar floods showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The disorder was long-standing in almost 30 per cent of those people.

Mittal said crying spells and survivor guilt are the first symptoms of the affected.

“A lady in one of the affected families who visited us breaks down every half-an-hour. She feels guilty for not doing anything while being in Delhi while her relative died in the Uttarakhand tragedy,” he said.

However, it is the people who have directly witnessed the tragedy and have managed to survive, bear the biggest brunt of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Their trauma does not end with their rescue. Most of them will relive the memories again and again and will be hyper-vigilant. Even a normal thunder or drops of rain will lead to flashbacks and will trigger fear in them,” said Dr Sameer Kalani, a psychiatrist in the capital.

Though many people do not like to be associated with the word ‘psychiatry’, doctors said that psychological aid helps recover from the trauma to some degree.

Venting grief

They also suggested that the victims be allowed to vent their grief because suppression can lead to depression.

Delhi Psychiatric Centre has launched a free 24-hour helpline number 9910135205, which will provide immediate psychological guidance and counselling for the flood victims.

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