7.6.11: Psychological Issues
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Children are especially traumatized by earthquakes. Familiar surroundings—everything that is supposed to stay put in their lives—suddenly move, are damaged, or become a threat. Children might have to leave home for an extended period of time. They will fear that the shaking and destruction will get worse, or will happen again and again.
Assuring the physical safety of your child is only the first step. Include the child in all your activities, keep talking, and encourage the child to talk out fears. It might be necessary for your child to sleep with you for a few days until things return, more or less, to normal. Plenty of reassurance and just being present will help in overcoming your child’s fears after an earthquake. Encourage the school to plan group activities that relate to psychological recovery from an earthquake.
Elderly or disabled persons also might feel a sense of helplessness and fear due to an earthquake. Some individuals of any age are prone to “disaster syndrome.” This illness might not come on immediately after the disaster, but it builds up over days and weeks, with evidence of the disaster everywhere and with the telling and retelling of the stories of the event. In severe cases, these people will need counseling and might need to leave the area until they have recovered.