As Nepalese struggle to recover from the devastation of last week’s 7.9-magnitude earthquake, mental health experts and artists are working to bring some psychological relief to victims.
Immediately following the aftermath of a large-scale traumatic event, people are concerned primarily with survival and taking care of family and friends. Experts warn, as individuals’ situations stabilize, adverse psychological affects such as confusion grief and anger, take form. The extent to which we are able to assist Nepalese people in rebuilding their lives and social supports is extremely important.
In this effort, Annie Seymour a British national currently in Nepal said that among the rapid deployment team sent from the UK is a Red Cross psychosocial therapist called Linda.
“Her job is to help people start to process their experience. I wondered about this: of all the things needed, was this a priority? Then I see the impact she has, how she is helping people to become people again, giving them just enough stability in mind to make decisions, to act, to breathe, to focus,” Seymour wrote on Facebook.
Everyone in Nepal is somewhat traumatized.
Michael Blumenfield M.D from the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry told the Baltic Review, people in the country are witnessing death and destruction above and beyond the usual human experience, which can lead to symptoms of post traumatic stress.
“Rescue workers and even reporters who are in the field day and night will be traumatized – not only the primary victims,” Blumenfield said.
Aid agencies in the country are committed to minimizing some of the psychological repercussions of the earthquake, having learned lessons during previous disasters such as that in 2010 in Haiti.
Experts fear that the psychological effects will hit children in particular. Delailah Borja, Save the Children‘s Country Director in Nepal, said that a week on from the earthquake, the full scale of the devastation is just becoming clear.
“Many of these 260,000 children have lost everything – their homes, their warm clothes and tragically sometimes their families,” Borja said.
Having learned from Haiti, Unicef is preparing to take “recreation kits” to children in Nepal.
“We are setting up child-friendly spaces in informal camps and will start distributing kits to help children be children again,” Rupa Joshi, an emergencies communication officer for Unicef said. Joshi added that Unicef is helping schools – that are currently still closed – recover from the disaster with the distribution of education kits.
Art is a way for children to get emotions out and is famous for its healing qualities. Sneha Shrestha, founder of the Nepal Children’s Art Museum (CAM) is collecting funds to provide art therapy to children affected by the earthquake.
“The fundraiser is going towards helping children cope with the disaster through creative and educational mediums,” Shrestha told the Baltic Review. As part of the recovery operation CAM intends to mobilize their staff and volunteers – together with local and international partners – to bring children some relief.
Artist Milan Rai, known as the ‘butterfly man’, has mobilized people across the world to spread a message of hope for Nepal’s earthquake victims. His paper cut-outs of white butterflies have flown from Kathmandu to New York.
“White butterflies will be used to spread hope not only in Nepal but in cities like London, New York and Berlin in the following days,” Milan told the Baltic Review. His minimalist art has been photographed in more than thirty countries and has become a symbol of peace from Taksim Square to International Days of Peace across the globe.
Poverty may be widespread but social support is deep in Nepalese culture. The country has a strong sense of mutual responsibility among extended families and communities. On social media, a new campaign has been launched today to send a wave of positivity to the Nepali diaspora and the rest of the world.
The #PositiveImageChallenge encourages Kathmandu city dwellers to photograph parts of the city where devastation has not occurred and upload images to Facebook. It will take years for Nepal to rebuild sustainable, earthquake-proof buildings, and avoid such large-scale damages in the future – but people are not giving up.