News

Medical Workers in Indonesia Say Tsunami Victims Face Years of Psychological Trauma

Relief workers in Indonesia's Aceh province say food, clean water, and immediate medical care are beginning to reach almost all the victims of last month's earthquake and tsunami. But they say they are just beginning to assess the psychological trauma affecting the half million victims of the disaster.

It is late morning at Zaineol Abidin hospital, Banda Aceh's main medical facility. The collapsed wall at its entrance and the muddy courtyard inside are grim reminders of last month's deadly tsunami, which killed scores of patients and many doctors and nurses here.

On the veranda of the main entrance, a half-dozen doctors, volunteers from Indonesia and abroad, attend to the hundreds of patients who come in every day, referring the most severe cases to teams inside. One of them is psychiatrist Ira Savitri Tanjung from Jakarta, who sits at the far end of the veranda with a bag of medicine at her side.

Dr. Tanjung is trying to comfort a young mother who speaks slowly, staring deep into space.

Dr. Tanjung says the woman was already having family problems but after the tsunami took both her parents, she began to suffer from depression. The doctor says this is but one symptom of what is called post-traumatic stress disorder, which afflicts many people in Aceh now.

"The problem's symptoms are anxiety, jitters and depression because they lost everything. And sometimes they worry, [they] hear water," she said.

The doctor says she talks to the patients and tries to help them cope with their shock. Some cases require medication. She says she sees about 100 people a day and one by one tries to help them regain their spirit.

In the camps of survivors who lost their homes as well as family members, the feelings of shock are even more intense. An American doctor working in a tent community on the hard-hit western coast, Sanjay Thomas, says most of its residents are suffering from post-traumatic stress.

"I think about three-quarters of the camp here are suffering from that kind of disorder," he said. "We have a social worker here to try and develop a plan for the next three to six months so that they can have a counseling program and people can just vent about their experiences."

A delegate from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Langdon Grenhelgh, says the best way to deal with trauma of this nature is to use local therapists.

"You deal with local representatives from these communities who can understand what these folks have gone through, understand what the coping mechanisms are within these communities and how best to strengthen these coping mechanisms," he said.

A health officer with the Red Cross, Caroline Dunn, has just completed a medical assessment in the region. She says the symptoms her volunteers are seeing include sleeplessness, crying and an inability to talk about the events.

Her group is helping the Indonesian Red Cross set up clinics to train medical workers on how to spot and treat people with problems.

"All the people accessing this clinic are given information on how to recognize certain symptoms that people might be acutely stressed or traumatized and what they can do to help them," she said. "This will be followed up by a longer-term program in the next few months to make sure that people get some support where possible."

She says the clinics will be community based, and will be run by volunteers with the Indonesian Red Cross. Nevertheless, she says her group plans to be in Aceh for the long term, until the communities regain some sense of normality.

 

 

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs