THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The floods have devastated the state. It has also left behind emotional and mental scars from which the survivors were slowly recovering. Now, to take stock of the status of mental health among the survivors the Health Department is planning to come out with a year-long project in flood-hit areas. The project is for ensuring early identification and intervention in cases of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or acute stress disorder or acute mental illness among the survivors, including children.
“A detailed project report has already been submitted to the government. With children being the most vulnerable group in times of disasters a separate project will be prepared for their mental health rehabilitation,” said an officer with the Health Department. According to the officer, if needed the department might also employ the technical expertise of Bangalore-based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Services (NIMHANS) in executing the project.
“A 40-member psycho-social teams comprising psychiatrists, psychologists and psycho-social workers were already deployed across the state for rapid psycho-social assessment and community based psycho-social care. If needed, their service will be sought for executing the project,” the source said.
At the same time, Dr Jayaprakashan K P, secretary of Kerala State Mental Health Authority, said though symptoms like insomnia, frequent crying spells, fainting and others should have to be considered as ‘normal responses in an extraordinary situation’, cases of PTSD could only be confirmed within a minimum of one month after the disaster.
“People who had a history of mental illness, anxiety, stress, depression and others were more prone to PTSD than others. Considering previous instances of disasters, including tsunami and Ockhi cyclone, the cases of PTSD in the state were sparse. But this time we were expecting a marginal increase,” said Jayaprakashan.
He said while the fishermen community had shown a resilience during disasters like tsunami and Ockhi cyclone, the case is likely to get different during the floods as the affected were mainly from inland, who were not exposed to disasters of this magnitude before.
Meanwhile, Dr Kiran P S, nodal officer of the state mental health programme, said instances of PTSD are more likely to be reported from areas which had witnessed landslides than floods. According to him, considering the seriousness of the situation, health workers along with councillors were offering counselling at flood-hit areas as they had already covered around one lakh victims and visited 19,000 houses.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, US, PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event
Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSDSome people recover within six months