Tips for psychosocial support after earthquake

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Emergency management specialists from the School of Psychology have offered online tips to help people deal with the psychological aftermath of the Canterbury earthquake.

Director of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research Dr David Johnston, who is doing research work in the United States, says in the hours, days and weeks ahead people may come across instances where family, friends and work colleagues are worried, anxious, frightened, or just uncertain about their experiences and futures.

Some will have experienced damage to their property, which means that they cannot live where they normally live. Others may have experienced injury – whether to themselves, or their loved ones. And this injury could be physical or non-physical, visible or non-visible, he says.

“What we know from the research is that most people will be okay, especially if they have their usual resources to draw upon – especially their social networks and experience with coping with adversity successfully before in their lives. Others will need more support.”

Sociologist Miriam Hughes says people’s initial reaction to the earthquake was typically driven by a high-adrenaline ‘fight or flight’ response.

“People often relate they were thinking very clearly [at the time].” But typically, people became less self-aware during and immediately after an emergency.

“People begin to focus on the wider issues that need to be solved, rather than themselves.” That response was driven by adrenalin but “after a while you crash”, Dr Hughes says.

The link below will direct you to videos that explain concepts of psychosocial support.

The Joint Centre for Disaster Research is a venture between the University and the crown research institute GNS Science based at the School of Psychology on Massey’s Wellington campus.

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