Andhra Pradesh

‘Gas leak victims vulnerable to post-traumatic syndrome’

The affected people may develop panic attack, insomnia, bouts of depression, say experts.  

Even as RR Venkatapuram and other areas affected by the gas leak from the LG Polymers on May 7 are limping back to normalcy, the health officials and doctors fear that many people who fell sick after inhaling the styrene vapour may face post-traumatic syndrome and other psychological issues.

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Not only the people who were hospitalised, but also those who lost a family member or evacuated in the aftermath of the incident, are also vulnerable to such problems,

The tragedy claimed 12 lives and left more than 300 hospitalised including at least 20 whose condition were critical and had to be given ventilator support. More than 2,000 residents were evacuated from the areas in the vicinity of the LG Poymers plant.

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Rude shock

The residents of the six villages and colonies such as RR Venkatapuram, Venkatapuram, SC-BC Colony, Kamparapalem, Nandamuri Nagar and Padmanabha Nagar surrounding the plant were the worst hit and are yet to come to terms with the tragedy.

“The timing of the incident is critical. It happened at around 3.30 a.m. and a majority of the residents were in deep sleep. They woke up to a shock and it is going to stay with them for a while,” says N.N. Raju, senior psychiatrist and former head of the department of Government Hospital for Mental Care.

Giving more details, he says psychological issues can be broadly classified into two—immediate problems and long-term repercussions.

The immediate problems are associated with a shock which is re-living a bad incident as flashes or dreams. This may lead to panic reaction, insomnia, fearfulness, bouts of depression and loss of appetite. “People who have lost their dear ones may tend to develop suicidal tendencies,” says Dr. Raju.

As the long-term repercussions, the victims may suffer from prolonged depression after a gap of few days or months. “They may develop bouts of anxiety even from a small change in smell or sound. They tend to develop instant panic attacks,” he says.

Cognitive therapy

According to him, anti-depressant drugs may help, but for long-term cure, there is a need for cognitive therapy with counselling sessions. “The victims need counselling to help them cope with the shock. And the best thing is to involve them in some activity,” suggests Dr. Raju.

According to health officials, the government is now mulling counselling sessions for the victims.

It may be done at the King George Hospital (KGH) where they are undergoing treatment or at the village level, says an official from the Health Department.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 5:49:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/gas-leak-victims-vulnerable-to-post-traumatic-syndrome/article31577052.ece

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