Post-earthquake relief and rescue efforts are largely oriented towards saving lives, rehabilitation of living beings, and repair of buildings and infrastructure services. However, earthquake is a natural disaster that can cause serious psychological problems for the survivors besides causing physical destruction and death.
Post-earthquake assistance is mainly directed towards saving lives, treatment of physical injuries, provision of shelter and restoration of infrastructure services. The fact that the detection and treatment of psychological effects is more complex and long-lasting results in the damage in this area being left alone most of the time.
Reactions to the earthquake and its aftermath vary due to the severity of the event, the personality structures of the victims, social values and past experiences. It is obvious that a Japanese person living in safe buildings and educated about earthquakes will react differently from an individual living in unsafe buildings and in a country unprepared for earthquakes.
Unfortunately, our country was not physiologically and psychologically prepared for the earthquake disaster. Subsequently, we were left alone with disastrous consequences that no one would want. The feelings of anxiety and fear in the society after the earthquake created a psychological destruction in the human brain. So how will we overcome this fear? The trauma it left in our children, the anxiety in our elders, the sadness in our people who lost their relatives... After two severe earthquakes, we are still experiencing aftershocks in the region. We started to live with the thought of whether the same thing will happen again in every shaking. The psychological destruction is so great that we now feel shaking even when there is no shaking. How can we prevent all these things?
Earthquake and Brain
In the face of unexpected life-threatening events such as earthquakes, the human brain instantly reacts in two ways: The first is to assess the danger and the second is to protect from the threat.
The threat creates a 'Fight or Flight' response in our brain. It is not possible to fight that event during an earthquake. The brain perceives and implements the second option 'Flee' command. Is running away the right solution? The most dangerous areas of buildings during a severe earthquake; stairs, lifts, building gaps are the routes we need for the exit door. But they are also areas where we should never be during an earthquake. Research shows that most rescued people have created a small living space for themselves next to safe, stable and heavy objects and furniture.
How can we not give our brain the command 'RUN'?
For this, the brain needs to feel safe. It must have assurance that the building is strong, that nothing will happen to itself and its loved ones, that the earthquake will stop after a few seconds and that the area it lives in will protect it. Unfortunately, we learn painfully every time that these things are not possible. In order to realise this, our living spaces need to be reconstructed, and then the place where we will live needs to be subjected to a drill and tested. If that structure shakes violently when it experiences a tremor, but does not collapse, if not a single one of your belongings is damaged, then the brain experiences and learns that it should not escape from there.
Approach to Earthquake Trauma
We did not have the conditions mentioned above and the sad destruction experienced cannot be compensated. What can be compensated for is the psychological structure of the people who experienced this event, which needs to recover and heal.
There is no standardised method to help people cope with trauma. Methods that are suitable for the personality and lifestyle of the individual and can be put into practice are necessary. In the psychological help to be provided immediately after the earthquake, it is important to give the person the opportunity to express his/her experiences and feelings freely, to provide mental and physical relaxation and rest, to encourage him/her to ask for help from the relatives he/she can reach, and to provide enlightening information about the emotional problems that the trauma may cause.
Even if the trauma has demotivated the person to reorganise his/her life, the realisation of the importance of making an effort is crucial for psychological recovery.
Even if it is not possible to return to a routine working life, starting daily activities is useful in reducing the feeling of emptiness and the vicious cycle of thoughts it can create. Helping people who are in a more difficult situation than oneself will not only make life easier for the person receiving help, but will also give the helper a sense of relief from being useful and help him/her to get out of the vicious cycle of thinking.
Is Normalisation Normal?
After the earthquake trauma, it is very important to be able to understand the pain, sadness, losses and human approaches to this. After losing the immediacy of the event (it may take 1 week for some); it is quite natural to experience your own normality. Life obliges us to do this after a while anyway. Returning to work, laughing, crying, eating, sitting in a cafe for a coffee, etc. these are quite normal. But it would not be right to live your normals in front of people, so to speak, to blare out. The problem is not that you live your normals, but that you display them with joy. It is to share your laughter on social media as if nothing happened. This is a situation that can make people who are in a psychologically difficult situation even more difficult. Your normal reminds disrespect to someone who has lost a close relative, sadness to someone who still has not received any news from their loved one, perhaps longing to someone who has lost a pawed friend. You may be free to do anything in order to feel good, but let's not forget that the border where our freedom ends may be the place where someone else's freedom begins. In this process, you do not have to make posts, especially on social media, showing that your life full of joy and love is on the way. As someone who is in the earthquake zone and who has experienced the earthquake very severely, even without damage or loss, I see the right to empathise with the people in this region; I would like to ask you all to act by thinking that seeing your exaggerated normals is not beneficial to us and maybe even harmful. Let's normalise, but please for ourselves, not for social media or other people.