Natural Disaster & Mental Health

Burning forests all over our country, animals that lost their lives, and those who suffered material and moral losses affect our psychology deeply. The negative news we are exposed to on social media every day, the videos taken, the greens lost in the orange hurt us very much. We are experiencing a collective loss, and we watch with pain the exhaustion of our breathing lungs. At some point, we are trying to hold each other’s hand, looking for how we can support. In a way, we are working with all our might so that our forests can be reborn from the ashes, and we try to keep our hopes vigorous. In this period when we need to support each other, we, as mental health professionals, can at least work to increase psychological resilience and protect people from the long-term effects of trauma with psychological first aid. You can fill out the forms on the links on these pages, especially to be included in the two projects I mentioned below:

World Human Relief: Turkey Fire – Trauma Healing Project

Turkish Psychological Association – Volunteer Support Call

What is a natural disaster?

Every natural disaster is also a traumatic disaster; causing mass destruction, it affects millions of people economically, socially and psychologically. Mental health affects not only the individual, but also the psychology of society by shaking the norms, beliefs and values ​​that form the basis of psychological resilience.

What are the effects of disasters?

Intense emotional reactions occur in people according to the type, severity and impact of the natural disaster: People try to cope with feelings of frustration, loss, sadness, anger, shock, fear, regret, anxiety and depressiveness. Post-traumatic stress disorder, changes in social relationships, rapid changes in mood, difficulty in making decisions, trouble sleeping or eating may be experienced. People who experience the effects of natural disasters more intensely and suffer material and moral losses give relatively more negative psychological responses.

How do we cope?

It is very important to get support from the people around us in order to protect mental health and increase psychological resilience. Being in contact with the people around us, sharing our feelings with our loved ones and gaining strength from their presence helps us to feel more alone. According to research, expressing your feelings, whether by speaking, writing, or choosing a way that makes you feel good, can also be a useful way to understand and cope with these feelings. Since children have less experience in coping, they may make less sense of the situation and may feel powerless and uncontrolled in the face of events. Therefore, it is necessary to allow children to express their feelings in the same way. In addition to protecting our mental health, it is of great importance that we take good care of our body; Especially in this period when we feel fragile, we should keep our body vigorous with adequate sleep and proper nutrition.

What can we do as psychologists?

Psychological first aid aims to determine the basic needs of people after a negative event at the individual or social level and to protect people from traumatic effects that may occur in the long term. For this reason, mental health workers should contact those affected by the disaster. Listening to people and being able to hear their voices can sometimes be even more effective than talking. By supporting people in activating coping mechanisms they previously had, we can restore the resilience they have inside. It is necessary to support the people affected by the disaster in meeting their basic needs by establishing a safe relationship, to ensure the safety of individuals, to return them from the state of shock to a state of calm and balance, to teach relaxation exercises and to provide correct information.

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