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Human Effects of Earthquake Trauma and Reducing it
In my previous article, I mentioned that traumas are divided into two as natural origin or man-made ones. Although earthquake trauma may seem like a natural trauma, the inner side of the matter is not like that at all. Despite the fact that we are in an earthquake zone, buildings that are built uncontrollably and irresponsibly, administrators who turn a blind eye to the construction of these buildings, opportunistic looters, those who try to make their own advertisements by taking advantage of the situation, those who abuse the images of the victims, taxes that are not clear where they go, the situation of the people who survived the earthquake like a "miracle". When I say attachments to superior powers, all I see in people lately is anger. And this anger is not an existential anger against a natural phenomenon that is beyond our control. On the contrary, it is justified and appropriate anger with a clear object.
Normally, traumas caused by natural disasters are expected to be overcome more easily due to the fact that they are tied to the forces of nature or fate. Because there is a destruction that has occurred as a result of the natural activity of a power greater than we can control, without any intention. In such traumas, people's trust in society and the state does not completely disappear. However, the color of the event changes in human-induced traumas. It is not only the buildings that are destroyed here, the sense of trust is shaken to its foundations.
Unsupervised, cement and iron stolen buildings are responsible and guilty of both the builders and the managers who do not supervise it. Delays in aid, bias in distribution, double standards, abuses increase the severity and duration of trauma stress experienced by trauma victims. The trust of these people in institutions and the state is completely destroyed. In addition to all these, human-induced crimes such as robbery, looting, assault and rape increase in the turmoil that arises after a disaster such as an earthquake. After an earthquake, we saw that the wreckage and dead looters came from other cities with trucks, not only the debris but also the houses that were abandoned out of fear, and the black market goods were sold to the earthquake victims. Such malicious, irresponsible, negligent, opportunistic and disruptive events make the earthquake not a natural trauma. Therefore, there is no trauma of 100% natural origin. Therefore, the main task of the state is to provide a sense of security.
At this point, there is another very important point to be noted. In this process, state elders should be very careful about their discourse. First of all, it should be known that the minds of societies exposed to a traumatic event become polarized. As a result of trauma, people begin to think polarized, there is either a friend or an enemy, there is no in-between. For this reason, especially country administrators should avoid rhetoric that polarizes the society. As was done before the 1999 earthquake, to attribute the cause of the earthquake to the morality of the people in the region where it occurred, to romanticize the situation of those who survived the destructions based on human negligence with expressions such as "miracle", and even more painfully, when these statements came out of the mouths of the state elders themselves, it further damaged the sense of trust that was shaken, it only serves to deepen polarization, anger and grief.
Although trauma is included in the anxiety-anxiety group disorders, it is basically anger and grief disorder.
Intense anger is observed especially in victims who have suffered physical harm in trauma, who have been wronged afterwards, and whose beliefs and values have been destroyed. They are angry because this trauma happened to them and because nothing happened to those responsible, because they were injured physically and emotionally, because they lost their pre-traumatic innocence, belief that there is goodness in life, and their sense of security. It is quite normal to experience extreme fear and confusion immediately after an earthquake, to react abruptly and violently if you have lost loved ones, or to be frozen, to blame others in denial, anger, and rebellion.
A week or two after the earthquake, numbness, extreme fear, feeling helpless, experiencing the event over and over again or not being able to remember all or some parts of the event, staying away from people and not wanting to talk about the subject, insomnia, irritability, irritability, extreme startle, palpitation, trembling and breathing difficulties can be observed. Along with all this, feeling that you have no future, blaming yourself for the death of your loved ones, and feeling helpless and unable to do anything in the face of what you've been through are also natural reactions. These symptoms are normal reactions to an abnormal situation after experiencing a traumatic event such as an earthquake. However, if these complaints do not subside within a few weeks, you should seek support from a mental health professional.
So what can be done to deal with trauma?
After a death-threatening event such as an earthquake, anxiety and related symptoms such as frequent breathing, palpitations, and difficulty in breathing may be experienced. These are the usual symptoms that occur when endangered. Anxiety has the feature of making people feel like they're going to "go crazy, die", but it neither drives them crazy nor kills them. When you feel in danger due to the event, it is natural to experience symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, tremors, and a feeling of pressure in your chest. When your anxiety subsides, these symptoms disappear on their own.
It is necessary to share the feelings and thoughts about the event. Talking about your experience with a relative who can listen to you and maintaining positive and supportive relationships with your friends, family and neighbors will be beneficial in this process. Social support improves psychological post-traumatic effects. Do not try to suppress your emotions and sadness. Share your feelings and thoughts about the event with those who listen to you.
Even if it is worrying to enter closed environments or be in crowded places after an earthquake, it should not be avoided. However, you can try to do these with people you know and trust until your anxiety level decreases.
In particular, children should not be exposed to images and videos of earthquakes. In addition, the abuse of images of victims should be prevented. As adults, we may sometimes need to watch images. However, watching the images of destruction over and over again throughout the day will have a negative impact on the mind. Limit watching such news.
In the first days, insomnia, loss of appetite, not wanting to do anything, feelings of weakness, helplessness and hopelessness are common. Therefore, do not use sedatives or alcohol, your sleep will improve within days.
Especially after such major traumas, more attention should be paid to body care. Do not use coping methods that will negatively affect your health, such as alcohol and cigarettes. Try to do whatever relaxes you (walking, talking to your friends, worship, being in nature, etc.). If you are feeling very anxious, breathing exercises and relaxation exercises may be good.
After disasters and traumas, people may tend to look for a culprit. Beware of rumors and news and gossip that could turn them into scapegoats because of a single person or group. These rumors, which range from simple gossip to supernatural explanations, can cause social divisions. Since a divided and polarized mindset will dominate the society due to trauma, we should pay more attention to our individual social media posts and not contribute to the dissemination of news of unknown origin and images that trigger trauma.
In summary, in this process, we should not contribute to the spread of polarizing and divisive news and expressions on social media, we should take care not to neglect our self-care (such as sleep, nutrition), and continue our daily routines so that we can help people directly affected by trauma. Finally, I would like to remind you that everyone is affected by trauma, but their reactions may differ. Therefore, avoiding unnecessary and pointless accusations, arguments and arguments, and focusing on our loved ones, responsibilities and how we can help those in need will be the most logical choice.