News / Asia

    Families of Missing Airliner Passengers Face Trauma as Uncertainty Deepens

    A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing March 8, 2014.
    A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing March 8, 2014.
    Cecily Hilleary
    Families of passengers from the missing Malaysian jet are in agony as the uncertainty to the plane’s fate drags on.

    When a family member doesn’t know the fate of a loved one, it places them in what psychologists call “boundary ambiguity.” 

    “Think about having a husband,” said Anne Speckhard, an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and an expert in stress responses to disasters. 

    “If he’s there with you, he’s physically present and psychologically present,” she explained. “But if he goes off to war, you keep him psychologically present. But when you get a notice from the military that your husband is missing in action, what do you do?”

    Speckhard has worked with and family members and survivors of the 2002 siege of a Moscow theatre by Chechen rebels and a 2004 school siege in Beslan, Russia, when Chechens took approximately 1,200 children and adults hostage.

    Speckhard sees similarities between the families of the victims of those sieges and the families of the missing airline passengers. 

    “At Beslan, it was very wrenching, because school children were inside the school and their mothers were outside the perimeter, where a fence had been put up, and they couldn’t get to their children,” Speckhard said.

    The friends and family of the missing airline passengers are suffering in a similar manner, not knowing if their relatives are alive or dead, she said.

    Malaysia defends itself

    Malaysian authorities have defended themselves against mounting criticisms over how it is handling families.

    Malaysia’s special envoy to China held a closed-door briefing for family members this week, saying his government has been “very transparent” in the way it manages information.

    Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting also promised to update families regularly and not keep them waiting “too long.” 

    The airline says it has set up a family support center offering 24-hour assistance to any one in need. The airline says it will not only telephone families with any developing news but will now send them SMS alerts.

    The second of the two objects spotted by the Australian satellite.The second of the two objects spotted by the Australian satellite.
    x
    The second of the two objects spotted by the Australian satellite.
    The second of the two objects spotted by the Australian satellite.
    The company has promised to fly families to Australia if the objects picked up on satellite images in the Indian Ocean are located and determined to be part of the missing plane.

    The airline also blamed conflicting media reports and the circulation of conspiracy theories on the Internet for heightening families’ distress.
     
    Acting transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has admitted that dealing with distraught families is no easy task, saying he has consulted with French aviation officials who arrived in Malaysia this week to participate in the international search for the missing plane.

    But disaster stress expert Speckhard said the next-of-kin have also been getting mixed messages form assorted unverified reports that their friends and family members might still be alive.

    “The message that they could be held somewhere, that this plane might be hiding somewhere, so they can’t start the grief process,” she said.  “And we know from research, this isn’t good for you.”

    The stress of not knowing won’t subside, Speckhard said, until family are able to redefine the boundaries of their family—that is, make the difficult decision on whether the missing member is still part of the family or gone forever.

    Only when they decide can they begin the process of grieving and begin to find closure, she said. 

    “Authorities should expect family members to be crazed, and authorities should think that through and get a good psychologist and social workers,” she said. “They should be handling those people with kid gloves.”



     

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora