It is not uncommon for soldiers who have fought in war to suffer from post-traumatic stress after a mission. People who have been beaten, displaced or displaced can also develop PTSD, and paramedics are sent to disaster areas to rescue the injured and recover the dead. is also the same.
Such disasters can be caused by extreme weather. People may fight for survival, flee floods and wildfires, and even witness others die. People who are in serious and direct danger from extreme weather and who feel helpless in the face of disaster are at increased risk of developing PTSD.
“Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have been studied very closely,” says psychiatrist Andreas Meyer Lindenberg. Current President of the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine (DGPPN), dating back to 2005) worked to provide psychological first aid in the United States after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on multiple states and claimed more than 1,800 lives.
“Basically, not everyone exposed to extreme weather events has mental health problems as a result,” says Meyer Lindenberg. “However, there has been a significant increase in mental health problems and illnesses after extreme weather events.”
Nearly half of those affected by Katrina’s devastation developed PTSD, he explains. While some people struggle with depression, anxiety, and even addiction after an extreme event, PTSD is a direct and causal consequence of what they’ve been through.
PTSD as a direct result of extreme weather
“The definition of PTSD is that a person or someone close to them has experienced a very dangerous event, and that event is central to their problem,” says Meyer Lindenberg. To tell. A typical symptom is that the disaster is relived over and over again in the form of flashbacks, dreams, and memories. So people try to avoid anything that can trigger these flashbacks. For flood victims, this may be rain.
The psychiatrist explains that this avoidance strategy leaves victims unable to cope with what they are going through, and as a result, they are often unable to overcome post-traumatic stress without treatment.
Few data are available on the impact of extreme weather events on the mental health of victims in developing countries. Developing countries are among the countries most affected by fires and floods. “Most of the research has been done in Europe, North America and Australia,” Meyer Lindenberg said, adding that there is a paucity of available data, particularly from Africa.
But countries in the global South are already dealing with extreme weather events, exacerbated by ongoing climate change, more frequently and for longer than countries in the North. “If countries have experienced extreme weather events and are better able to deal with the consequences, of course, they can mitigate the effects of such events,” says Meyer Lindenberg.
For example, a stable embankment not only protects people’s homes and property from flooding, but also protects their mental health by providing them with a sense of security. However, adequate protection against extreme weather requires financial resources, which are often scarce in poorer countries.
How does psychological first aid work?
Money is also needed for psychological first aid after a disaster. Meyer Lindenberg lists her five key points that are essential to a survivor’s psychological stability.
First, you need a place to sleep, food to eat and clean drinking water. “Until this is certain, there is no need to think of anything else,” he says.
His second point is that if the victim wants to talk, it’s important to listen and reassure them. But under no circumstances should they be forced to speak of what they have experienced.
Third, people should be able to contact relatives as soon as possible. “It’s very important, especially for children, that they get to know someone they know as soon as possible.”
Psychiatrists’ fourth point is that people are better able to cope with disasters when they experience self-efficacy. This is the feeling of being an active participant in shaping the situation, rather than simply feeling left at its mercy. “Helping others is one way to achieve this,” Meyer Lindenberg said.
Finally, it is important to keep people’s hopes alive. “It’s about taking actions that give those impacted a sense that we can get through this difficult time together, not clichés.”
PTSD may recur as extreme weather increases
If you develop symptoms of PTSD, you can be treated with a treatment called exposure therapy. This allows you to face your trauma again in a safe therapeutic space and in doing so overcome it. “It is possible [it] It disappears completely,” says Meyer Lindenberg.
However, for those with pre-existing PTSD, repeated exposure to extreme weather can lead to re-trauma. Experiencing extreme situations more often does not lessen the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. On the contrary, “the more often such a person experiences helplessness, the worse the reaction to it.”
This article was originally written in German.