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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
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.

VOA Blogs