THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Trekking in thick forests and visiting tribal colonies was never an ordeal for Tribal Medical Officer Dr Ashwathi Soman of Nilambur Mobile Dispensary. Last year, around this time, she earned accolades for trekking 10 km in the thick forest to save a life.
Despite the odds, she was only upbeat about such experiences. Not any more. Her experience with relief camps and rescue mission has left her traumatised and depressed. The colonies she used to visit and the roads she travelled have been destroyed.
“We feel heavy at heart. We cannot even ask the people what they went through. Each person will be battling different emotions. Most of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. So, we mustn’t press them to share their story,” says Dr Ashwathi.
Ashwathi has been working in the mobile dispensary for the past two years. “There are cases wherein the entire colony was washed away. And, some colonies are isolated as the roads are all destroyed. We had to travel in ‘rafts’ to get to different locations,” says Ashwathi Soman.
On the rehabilitation of tribal colonies, she feels it is difficult to bring them back to normal life after the havoc caused by the landslide. Her work focuses more on tribal settlements and she is unsure how long they will remain in the camps owing to their mental state. “Even going to the colony can trigger panic in them. The trauma caused by the havoc will stay in them for long unless they receive proper counselling. Apart from the affected people, even the doctor and people who were part of rescue operations and relief works should be counselled,” Ashwathi says.
The rescue operations were a nightmare. She says, “We weren’t even sure if there is someone beneath our feet. This thought itself was disturbing and heartbreaking. Doctors, police officers and other workers who were part of the rescue operations went through a lot, much more than what we learnt through media. Their trauma should be addressed and they should find a medium to express it. It is good that the government has appointed counsellors to help people,” she says.