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Updated: July 6, 2013 00:36 IST

Flood survivors need a helping hand

M. Sai Gopal
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The operations to rescue stranded pilgrims after the Uttarakhand flash floods might be over, but efforts to provide psychological support to pilgrims, especially those who lost their near and dear ones, are yet to take off

The operations to rescue stranded pilgrims after the Uttarakhand flash floods might be over, but efforts to provide psychological support to pilgrims, especially those who lost their near and dear ones, are yet to take off.

Struggling to come out in the open owing to societal pressures, lack of awareness and the stigma attached to mental health disorders, many, in the coming days, could undergo severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), senior psychiatrists here believe.

Family members and friends of the victims should watch out for tell-tale signs and take action accordingly, they point out. Beyond six to eight weeks, PTSD symptoms become obvious, and the survivors should be given urgent medical attention.

“Survivors will be emotionally vulnerable due to bereavement and the shock of narrow escape from the flash floods. This is where the trouble starts in the form of survivors’ guilt, nightmares and frightening dreams. Some would be re-enacting the whole incident again and again in their minds and quickly go into depression,” says senior neuro-psychiatrist Dr. G. Prasad Rao.

A large number of persons suffering from PTSD have to deal with psychotic breakdown, hysterical attacks, nightmares, waking up in the night and even frequent headaches.

Some might even, in their minds, be reliving the entire trauma replete with the visual imagery of the overflowing Ganges, which are known as re-enacting hallucinations.

Survivors who have lost their close family members also struggle.

“They start blaming themselves for the death. Sub-consciously, they keep playing alternative scenarios, which could have saved their relatives from death. In such situations, the relatives and friends of survivors have to play an important role,” Dr. Rao said.

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