Most flood victims from Kodagu and Kerala who have come to Bengaluru are facing extreme stress, and can’t get any sleep.
Over the past week many of them have seen their homes being washed away.
Some have seen worse: buildings collapsing on their families and neighbours, loved ones being washed away by the swirling waters, and landslides near them.
Eight members of singer Murugesh K V’s family have come to his house at Kodihalli, near Kengeri in Bengaluru, after the floods in Madikeri.
“When they arrived earlier this week, they just couldn’t sleep. They were terrified of going back. They are recovering but they need a lot of support,” he says.
Murugesh keeps telling them they can rebuild their lives. They are now planning to return to Madikeri despite their dread: they have heard the government is giving alternative land to people like them with homes washed away.
Preethi Cariappa, IT professional, was volunteering in Kerala when disaster struck her relatives in Kushalnagar.
They had to move to Bengaluru after they lost their house and business to the floods.
“My father’s brother and family are here and they saw landslides on the way. Since the day they arrived, they have been quiet and withdrawn. We have to keep reminding them about eating and resting. My uncle and aunt often break into tears and are not able to sleep at night as the disaster sights and sounds keep haunting them,” she says.
Preethi has advised her relatives to stop watching videos and TV reports about the floods.
“Talking to a counsellor helps and I have asked them to interact with one,” she says.
People caught in natural disasters, accidents or even personal losses suffer acute stress disorder. Some suffer the more post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Dr Safiya M S, consultant psychiatrist, Mind and Brain Clinic, Kodigehalli, says that it is normal for flood victims to be emotionally affected.
“In PTSD, certain brain changes happen and patients feel like they are living the situation again and again, despite not necessarily being in the same situation,” she says.
It is important to accept things and move on, she advises.
“While PTSD patients require anti-depressants and a lot of reassurance, people suffering immediate stress can help themselves out of the situation,” she says.
Dr Pallavi Joshi, consultant psychiatrist, Columbia Asia Hospital, says about four to five per cent of all total individuals affected by natural disasters develop PTSD.
“We cannot determine specifically how such incidents affect individuals as it depends on their upbringing, genetic making, circumstances, adversities they have faced in the past, and psychopathological history. Most are affected by acute stress disorder, where they experience intermittent palpitations, nausea, irritability and insomnia,” she says.
Sometimes, people are depressed even two or three months after an incident. In that case, they could have PTSD and should seek medication as this can affect their relationships.
“Children are more resilient to such situations,” she says.
Tasneem Nakhoda, psychotherapist for emotional wellbeing at Tattva Counseling, points out that the flooding of Kodagu has left behind a lot of emotional damage.
“It can leave most people initially in a state of shock and subsequently in immense grief and anger. Each individual has to handle questions like ‘why me?’ and often finds no answer that is satisfactory,” she says.
Victims of horrifying events can be overcome by pain each time they revisit the incident in their mind, or experience any sight or sound associated with it.
“Physical and emotional support can help relieve the pain,” she says.
People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience tingling, burning, headaches, and a funny feeling in the stomach. They vividly visualise the disaster.
Patients with PSTD are vulnerable to extreme emotional and psychological changes.
“They relive the intensity and lose clarity of thought. It is important they seek psychiatric help,” says Dr Safiya M S, consultant psychiatrist..
Accept your emotions; do not shun them.
Verbalise your emotions properly and validate them.
Allow yourself healing time, emotionally and financially. It is normal to take 3 to 6 months.
Introspect what needs to be done immediately.
Rebuild your mental health with support from family, friends or spiritual healers.