India’s 9/11 to Cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

by VR Sreeraman on  November 29, 2008 at 1:59 PM India Special
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The terror strike in Mumbai is the worst nightmare India has ever witnessed. The physical wounds of the surviviors will heal in a few months but the psychological scars may last a lifetime.

Once again terror struck Mumbai- the epicenter of India's financial network - on the evening of Wednesday, 26th November. Mumbai is no stranger to terror, but the recent episode is certainly the mother of all attacks. It is the worst nightmare the nation has ever witnessed.

The terrorists, who are reported to have arrived from across the borders, rode the waves to reach Mumbai's shores. In a span of few hours they scattered death and doom across various locales within the metropolis-- notable among these were hotels that are the favorite haunts of foreign tourists. In a bid to grab global attention people from the USA, UK and Israel were ear- marked for butchery.

What does this mean for Mumbaikars? For the ordinary citizens of Mumbai, life has paralyzed! Mumbai, which usually bounces back after every assault, has shut down completely. Fear stalks this fearless city that never, ever goes to sleep. Attacks against the metro have been far too many and it seems that the spirit of Mumbai has taken a beating.

It appears that we are not safe in our own country. We can no longer, entrust our well-being to our politicians-the 'men in white'. It is for the people of India to shed their apathy and take charge of the situation.

Dealing with Terror

Terrorism is here to stay, perhaps for a long, long time. It would, therefore, be prudent and necessary to learn to deal with it.

There is a lot of anger doing the rounds-against politicians, the terrorists, our neighbors and the system. A tragedy like this also provokes other emotions such as depression and guilt. It is important to understand that these are natural reactions that require to be tackled and not bottled up.

A tragedy of this scale can also trigger fear psychosis. Strange, or sometimes familiar noises, such as a motorcycle being kick-started can trigger fear and remind individuals of the nightmare they had undergone. It is important to deal with fear and not let fear take control, for that would serve the cause of the perpetrators. Rumors must be quelled and collective panic attack must be resisted.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The hostages and the individuals who barely escaped the terrorists' guns will perhaps rehash the nightmare for a long, long time. It is likely that they will be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder which may lead to symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite, numbness, tightness around the throat or bad dreams. Many of them may require help in the form of medical treatment and counseling. It must be remembered that they can completely recover and brought back to normal life.

The Mumbai health services should prepare in advance to identify doctors and hospitals that can provide this much needed, emergency service and make announcement to this effect in the newspapers. It must be remembered that Post-Tsunami, there was no provision to tackle this post -traumatic disorder. We cannot allow this to be repeated in Mumbai, otherwise the psychological impact can have grave repercussions on the survivors.

We must also remember that the outdated 'Mental Health Act' in India does not allow many private hospitals, unless licensed, to admit patients who are psychiatrically disturbed. The number of beds for such services are very limited. The Mumbaikars and the other survivors who survived the ordeal should know that it is natural to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after a tragedy of this propotion and should voluntarily seek advise from expert doctors to lessen their emotional trauma.

United We Stand

Every Indian must unite in the fight against the forces that are planning to demolish our nation. The fact that we are living in difficult times makes it imperative that even the ordinary man is trained in crisis management. Remember that the wounds and scars etched on our bodies and our collective consciousness WILL take time to heal. Accepting this fact is the first step to recovery. A responsible community and a dutiful government can rapidly put things on a comeback trail.

"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high......into that land of freedom, my father , let my country awake!"-Tagore

Source: Medindia
Dr. Reeja Tharu/L

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