Experts Say Mental Health Issues Are Rising With Water Levels & Triggering PTSD In Flood Victims

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Floods which wreaked havoc in eight states including Selangor and several districts in Pahang and Negeri Sembilan recently, can have a life-altering impact on the individuals and families fortunate enough to survive them.

They say it will not only be among the displaced communities but from their families and public as well.

According to the Psychiatric Counsellor & Director of Clinical Centre of Excellence at MSU, Dr Muhammad Najib Mohamad Alwi said the psychological reaction to the catastrophic disaster would greatly depend on an individual’s resilience, that is his or her ability to bounce back and return to normal.

He said, some flood victims who experienced loss of property and loss of their families, can still be calm amidst the calamity and were already back on their feet, including repairing their damaged homes and vehicles.

However, in comparison, some individuals are not even ready for a minor disruption, such as being stranded by the roadside, let alone a major disaster, causing them to experience stress or even frustration.

“Other factors which will determine the psychological reaction of an individual towards such a calamity include past experience with disasters, self-efficacy amid pressure, parties responsible for the disaster and their crisis preparedness.

“For those who have had similar experiences, the trauma and memories may be too overwhelming and rather than moving forward, they remain stuck in the trauma.”

“When this happens, the individual experiences an acute stress reaction or acute stress disorder. Or, perhaps, their past experiences have made them calmer, stronger and are prepared for any eventualities,” he said.

“Those with strong resilience are less likely to be impacted by the massive floods and can immediately adapt to the current situation and seek the best solutions brought on by the floods,” he told Bernama recently.

Counsellor Rohini Krishnan, 27, said more people had been getting mental health help since the floods occurred.

“There is increased anxiety in a lot of people. This situation can be addressed as seasonal depression or seasonal anxiety like that of people in countries that have winter. They feel more depressed and lonely during the cold weather.

“When people with this issue see dark clouds or when it is raining, they become worried, adding to their existing anxiety,” said Rohini, the founder of Meraky Counselling Services.

To reduce the chances of getting a panic attack, she advised them to set up support groups with family, friends and colleagues.

“Keep everyone in the loop every day,” she said.

Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Hazli Zakaria, who is also Malaysia Psychiatrist Association president, highlighted the importance of having proper assessment of victims’ needs, in terms of their psychological states.

“There must also be clear and specific plans by the relevant authorities to support victims, including short, mid and long-term planning,” he said.

If you or anyone you know is in need of mental health assistance, check out these links to hotlines and counselling services.