The devastation in Haiti didn’t just impact buildings and bodies, but destroyed the minds and hearts of thousands. An Associated Press article stated that one in five earthquake victims suffered overwhelming trauma and shock such that they won’t be able to recover without professional help. It is not uncommon for people to experience the trauma months and sometimes years after the event occurred. Some victims will suffer with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and will be crippled by fear and terror. Initially, victims of a disaster need social work type services which may include finding shelter, loved ones, food/water, etc. However, eventually these individuals need counseling to help them grieve, work through their fears, and return to daily functioning. The magnitude of this trauma is overwhelming for this country and its people who have so few resources, including mental health services. The American Psychological Association is providing a variety of psychological resources for Haiti and psychologists in the past have worked with the American Red Cross to provide mental health services. After the initial shock of the disaster subsides, intense feelings typically emerge, along with physical symptoms, flashbacks, and possible nightmares. Everyone responds differently to trauma and the time for recovery varies for each person. Ideally, each person would receive professional help. Without professional help, people can benefit from the following: allowing yourself time to heal and grieve, communicating your experience with others, leaning on others for support, reestablishing daily routines whenever possible, engaging in healthy behaviors, joining a support group, journaling about your experience, and allowing the waves of emotion to pass through you. For those of us not in a disaster situation, if your reaction to the trauma is prolonged and your daily functioning disrupted, then seek professional help.
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