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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora