Nepal earthquake survivors in deep trauma; psychotherapists at rescue

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Kathmandu | Updated: May 12, 2015 1:29:07 PM

The trauma of the deadly earthquake and continuous aftershocks in Nepal have left many of the survivors paranoid and some even mentally disturbed.

nepal earthquakeA woman walks through the rubble of collapsed houses at a village affected after an earthquake in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal. (Reuters)

The trauma of the deadly earthquake and continuous aftershocks in Nepal have left many of the survivors paranoid and some even mentally disturbed, who are now being treated by psychotherapists pressed into service by humanitarian agencies.

Also Read: Earthquake in Nepal: 2 quakes hit Delhi, North India; epicentres in Nepal, Afghanistan

Rushali Bhandari, 18, a student who lost her cousin in the Dharhara Tower collapse, still feels the earth is shaking.

“We were not able to even walk when the earthquake struck. Everytime, we tried, we fell. My little sister even saw the part of the building in front of our house falling down. We try to now distract ourselves from that memory,” she said.

Even weeks after the April 25 earthquake ravaged the country, people are still terrified, sleeping in tents, leaving their house and belongings behind.

The Shrestha family, who live near the Pashupatinath Temple, slept outside their house for days even though their house was not damaged.

While the husband and wife have now moved inside the house, son Ben Shrestha still sleep in the open.

A hotel manager in the city, Manju Shreshta, whose house was damaged in the quake, said, that losing the iconic Dharhara tower and other architectural heritage has left a deep impact on the people here.

“Some of us cannot imagine our life in the city without that tower. It is stressing us a lot,” she added.

Global humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF), which has been running mobile clinics in remote districts through helicopters, has been providing psychological support to the victims to deal with the trauma.

“When we landed in the village, we saw the faces of people. They looked traumatised. They need psychological and psycho-social support to cope with this difficult period,” Deputy Emergency Coordinator, MSF, Magali Roudaut, told PTI.

“People are showing post-traumatic syndrome disorder (PTSD), even if they are not physically wounded. They are exhibiting paranoia, anxiety. After the physical damage, the psychological damage must be checked,” she added.

Israel government, which has set up a Military Field Hospital in Kathmandu, has sent a team of “red-nosed” medical clowns to treat people who have developed trauma due to continuous tremors jolting the Himalayan nation.

Their purpose is to ease trauma effects and to reduce pain and anxiety among children and adults via their clowning skills.

“We have sent in a team of five medical clowns to our hospital there and they are helping people laugh, relax and de-stress in this hour of unimaginable tragedy. People, who have been wounded or lost their loved ones would otherwise find it difficult to cope with the post-traumatic effects of a disaster of this magnitude,” a senior Israeli official said.

“Besides, we also have psychiatrists to help lend counsel to those mentally-afflicted by this tragedy,” he added.

A 7.9 Richter Scale earthquake ripped through the heart of the Himalayan nation on April 25, and has killed nearly 8,000 people while another over 16,000 have been injured.

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