Myanmar Cyclone Survivors Suffer from Mental Health Problems

by VR Sreeraman on  June 5, 2008 at 11:05 AM Mental Health News   - G J E 4
Survivors of Myanmar's cyclone are plagued by visions of their lost loved ones and fears of further disaster as they try to summon the energy to rebuild their lives, a medical aid group said Wednesday.
 Myanmar Cyclone Survivors Suffer from Mental Health Problems
Myanmar Cyclone Survivors Suffer from Mental Health Problems

Of the 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone which hit May 2-3, many remain in need of food, shelter and clean water, but Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said many were also losing the will to survive.

Kaz de Jong, one of MSF's mental health specialists, said about 40 percent of the people assessed by their 43 medical teams in Myanmar's disaster zone were showing signs of mental health problems.

"There are a lot of people who are very sad, very anxious, people have difficulties sleeping at night, they wake up, afraid that something may happen," he said.

"They're reliving the moments of the disaster, seeing the last images of their relatives coming back in their dreams."

As the floodwaters recede from villages and the vital rice-planting season begins, now is the most critical time for rebuilding efforts.

But many have lost the will to work, de Jong explained, recounting the story of one woman whose family died in the storm.

"She said 'you know, we are all worried about rice, but we are also worried about people having the motivation to eat it. My life is not worth living. I have lost all my family members'," de Jong told reporters.

"That's part of the problem -- you can deal with a lot of practical problems but people also need support to reconstruct their life and make it worth living," he added.

Orphaned children and the elderly who have lost their families are particularly at risk, with children lacking the motivation to play, he said.

Cycone Nargis left more than 133,000 people dead or missing.

MSF has set up mental health programmes in temporary camps to try to combat inertia setting in among traumatised communities.

Monks are being asked to teach villagers to meditate to help overcome their sadness and lack of motivation, while those grieving are advised to share their problems and set aside a part of each day to think about those they have lost.

Community health workers are to be trained in seeking out the most vulnerable people and monitoring their mental health, while trained counsellors would be brought in, he said.

Source: AFP

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