Saturday, March 12, 2005

Some stuff on trauma from my psych prof.

One of the presentations on Thursday, besides my Art Therapy one, was on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Turns out that my prof was one of the psychologists that treated Murrah bombing victims 10 years ago - and he was one of the specialists that went to NYC after 9/11 to train other mental health care workers.

He made a lot of comments after that presentation. My summary of what I got from those comments:

  • People are more likely to develop PSTD from a man-made event than a natural disaster. Some of this may be due to the amount of rage or guilt the victim feels. Having a human cause makes the damage more personal.

  • Grief and trauma recovery works best if allowed to naturally resolve itself during the following 6 to 8 weeks. If it is still a major disturbance to daily activities after that, then help should be sought.

  • The time for mental health relief is NOT immediately after the disaster, but two months after and it has to be long term help and not short term sessions.

  • There is a place for mental health workers right after a disaster. That place is handing out food, helping people fill out FEMA forms and other volunteer work.

  • PSTD is often caused from a feeling of helplessness. People who have something to do after a major disaster are much less likely to develop trauma from it. (Which explains why I felt better while I was working at the nearby Air Force base during the aftermath of 9/11. I had a purpose and even though it was only a supportive function of support staff, it was helping the situation.)

He talked about a few other things that he experienced helping out during those disasters. Most of it was very emotional and striking. Some of it was how he dealt with 9/11 to keep himself stable enough to help others.

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