The news from New Zealand about the tourists involved in the volcanic eruption is very upsetting. If you have been personally affected, or are supporting family and friends who have been affected, we hope that the following suggestions on how to cope and offer support to others may be of some assistance.
After a natural disaster such as this, people may experience feelings of confusion and disorientation; strong feelings of fear, sadness, guilt and anger; difficulty sleeping or concentrating; and distressing thoughts and images.
For most people, these reactions will gradually decrease over time, and having the support of family and friends is particularly important in assisting recovery.
If you have been directly impacted, it is normal to feel frightened and unsettled. Look after yourself and seek the support of friends and family. While it’s important to be informed of the facts, constantly checking news and social media sites can add to distress for some people, especially children.
If you know someone who has been affected, you can assist them by helping them regain a sense of safety and control. Help them to access a safe and secure environment and information about what has happened to family and friends, as well as any relevant services. Encourage them to spend time with family and friends, which is critical in helping them to begin the recovery process.
Other helpful strategies include getting back to daily routines, such as having regular meals, rest and sleep, returning to work or study, and spending time doing enjoyable activities.
For children, it is important to be open with them, in a way that they can understand: provide reassurance, acknowledge their feelings if they are scared or upset, and respond to their questions, but limit excessive viewing of TV and social media coverage.
After a devastating natural disaster, people need time to manage their distress and deal with what they have been through. If someone you know continues to experience severe distress or is finding it hard to cope after a couple of weeks, encourage them to talk to a health professional; the local GP or community health centre are good places to start.
For media commentary, contact Maria Humphries or Lucia Brisolla – [email protected].