Expert Commentary

* Issues in Public Sensitivity to Disaster-Related Psychiatric Trauma (Japanese)

Jun Shigemura, MD

Clinical Professor, Dept Psychiatry
National Defense Medical University
Tokozawa, Japan
 

The Tohoku Event of 11 March 2011 encompassed a simultaneous triple disaster of an earthquake, a tsunami and multiple nuclear power plant accidents. In the aftermath of a localized disaster, albeit of this magnitude, peripherally-affected populations and professionals are frequently unsure of how to most effectively interact with both survivors and relief workers experiencing psychological sequelae. Among the most important considerations for relief workers are expressions of thanks and appreciation for the importance of the work they have undertaken. General expressions of understanding for the trauma experienced are recommended. One key caveat is caution about conveying an impression that the actual experience is of less consequence since it can be imagined by those who were not there. Expressions of kindness and shared purpose are also key components of the long-term healing process. Clinicians may find that less intervention and more availability to draw out internalized feelings may have greater therapeutic value. Both disaster workers and survivors may be reluctant to speak about their experiences for fear of introducing distasteful topics. Whenever possible, these fears should be dismissed and the patient urged to share experiences. Finally, especial concern is required for survivors and healthcare workers from Fukushima and environs because of the isolation and sequestration they may feel as real or imagined carriers of radioactive contamination.
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