GROUP TRAUMA COUNSELING TO CHILDREN EXPOSED TO NATURAL DISASTER: LESSONS LEARNED TO COMBAT DISASTER TRAUMA VICTIMS
 
Manickam, L.S.S., Jasseer, J and Shahul, M., Centre for Applied Psychological Studies and Suhani, B.T., University of Kerala, India
 
A team of psychologists of the Centre for Applied Psychological Studies visited the relief camp near the site of natural disaster to provide trauma counselling to those affected by the landslide disaster which killed 38 people and cost the valuable movable and immovable properties of hundreds of people. To our surprise we found that the children in the age group of 5 to 10, studying in a school nearby were affected with acute stress disorder. Since they numbered 117 and there were fewer resources, we resorted to group counselling, after initial screening of the 450 children. Using crayons, pencils and paper we asked them to draw what is fresh in their memory. Out of the 117, 98 of them drew pictures related to rain, landslide, uprooted trees, dilapidated houses, relief vehicles, shattered human beings and animals. We also encouraged some of them to share their personal experience in the group. We reassured them regarding some of their irrational fears, like whether, the dead ones would haunt them, whether the nearby rocks on the hill side will also roll down etc. During the sessions, it was more of a support, chance to ventilate and express their feelings, and reassurance, which helped all the children. On our subsequent visits, we found the children who were helped to be very active, cheerful and more communicative. We could only evaluate the children below 10, while there were 1500 children studying in the neighbouring school. We felt that there is a need for continuation of help to prevent Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. Secondly, the country needs to train psychologists in trauma counselling since several major natural as well as man made disasters has been affecting the country during the past decade in which thousands of people were affected. Finally, there has to be a special team of professionals with adequate training and resources to respond to the emergency situations.