People affected by earthquakes need urgent and strategic psycho care Featured

Hanan Al-Qattan

The psychiatrist, Dr. Hanan Al-Qattan, director of the Ettizan Center for Consultation and Training, said in an interview with Al-Mujtama that the psychological effects of earthquakes lead to traumatic disorders called post-traumatic stress disorder. Anyone who is exposed to any accident that threatens his life is exposed to psychological trauma.

The effects of this trauma vary from person to person depending on how well they can cope with the disaster and the frequency with which the images haunt them. The most pronounced of these effects are insomnia and sleep disorders, which are crucial for restoring mental equilibrium as well as treating a variety of physical issues. This appears to man in the form of voices from his imaginations, which cause "mental wandering" and a person to become disconnected from reality.

One of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Dr. Al-Qattan, is that a person experiences distress, tension, and anxiety as they enter a state of depression and are surrounded by their sorrows for a prolonged period. This is because they are unable to cope with the effects of losing a family member or themselves. He loses enthusiasm for life and experiences regret as well as other unpleasant consequences of tragedies because he believes that his future is over.

There are two axes that affect the extent of the harmful consequences of post-traumatic stress according to Al-Qattan:

The first axis is the genetic and psychological tendency to mental diseases including depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The second axis is represented by how the personality developed and how this person was raised. Does he have a great level of certainty and submission to The Almighty, or does he lack faith meanings? As a result, he becomes unable to accept God's will and destiny, making adaptation impossible. This is known as personality development, and it helps to explain the differences between people. As experts have stated, "It is not the trauma that causes a problem, but rather your own perception that generates the problem."

What is trauma?

Among the effects of disasters is the lack of a balanced awareness of what happened, which generates some problems in behavior, such as recklessness, lack of caution, indifference to security and safety means, and mental disregard for the problem and crisis. Reactive anxiety is not caused by a crisis, but rather chronic anxiety, and it has negative effects such as irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, malaise, weakness, and fatigue.

One of its side effects is excessive terror or pathological fear caused by nervous system activation. As a result, as proven by post-earthquake aftershocks, adrenaline is secreted involuntarily. Individuals frightened, and the response to the stimuli was significantly faster than before, indicating a large production of adrenaline. This demonstrates that the body is awake and has a normal reaction. Allah Almighty has created bodies that are always in a defensive condition, but if a person lives in this state for an extended period of time, it can have an impact on his psychological state. Those who have been traumatized must therefore calm down, breathe deeply, remember Allah, and place their trust in Him.

Stages of Trauma

There are stages of trauma experienced by a person, says Dr. Hanan Al-Qattan:

  • The first stage is the stage of denial when a person is in a stage of rejecting this event, or not accepting it.
  • Then the person moves to the stage of anger and protest, which is the second stage. This is a healthy stage because it moves a person from illogical denial to acceptance.
  • The third stage is the bargaining stage. They try to save what can be saved.
  • Then comes the fourth stage, which is depression.
  • The last stage of acceptance, in which the person accepts what happened.

These stages differ according to the person’s psychological health. There are those who possess high psychological health and reach the stage of acceptance faster, as happened with our master Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, when he said: “Whoever says: The Messenger, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, is dead, his head will be cut off.”

 When Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, reminded him of the Qur’anic verse: (Muhammad is not except a Messenger; Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you turn about on your heels? And he who turns on his heels will not harm Allah a thing. Allah will recompense the thankful.) (Al-Imran: 144).    He said: “It is as if I am hearing it for the first time.” This is evidence that he moved to acceptance and comprehension quickly and did not take minutes. The speed of response and reaching acceptance varies from one person to another.

Means of support

Dr. Hanan Al-Qattan says: There are ideas and means of psychological support:

  Firstly, calm down those affected, in the first moments and the golden hour. Do not let people with panic pass for long hours, and then go to calm them down. The first calm is what saves the person, and it is what curbs the unconscious secretions of adrenaline and other repercussions. Remind them to be patient, calm, and embrace them, especially children, because they quickly move from fear to the world of childhood and to a sense of safety, then feed them, give them water and food, and sometimes participate with them in collective work, as teamwork greatly alleviates the suffering of those affected in such disasters.

Al-Qattan indicated that there are cases that require psychological support of a different kind, and the development of treatment plans for these cases. Even the one who practices psychological support needs to stabilize his heart so that he does not reach the stage of collapse, and to recharge himself again with the spirit of giving. In the first stage, the support should be a first aid for the psychologically affected.

Secondly, once things have calmed down, there will be another form of assistance. It is a slow help that consists of building a strategic plan to handle nightmares, anxiety, and stress, rather than venting in inappropriate ways such as breaking furniture, beating, or succumbing to despair and sadness.

Finally, a therapeutic journey begins with a strategy based on the degree of trauma, which varies from child to child depending on his or her personality. There are children who have panicked, children who are psychologically stable, children who chat to themselves in the car, and children who laugh and play and are unaware of the tragedy because they are so young.


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