We connected with a group working on the frontlines of Southern Turkey and Northern Syria to assist the survivors of the devastating earthquake.
On February 6, 2023, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Southern Turkey and Northern Syria leading to at least 57,000 deaths to date and unfathomable psychosocial aftermath. Despite the mass casualties and the devastating consequences of the disaster, many healers quickly joined efforts to help the survivors and families of the victims cope.
One of those admirable efforts is the organized response by the Mostashara (The Advisor) Center for Psychological and Social Health team. Psychiatric Times connected with the group on the frontline to ask a few questions.
PT: Postearthquake, what is the state of mental health in your area?
Mostashara Center: After the first earthquake, we were in a state of shock and disbelief, but things got worse after the subsequent aftershocks. This is because of disappointment that the event recurred. The sense of safety is deeply shaken. As of now, most individuals are trying to return to a new normal. Many are restless and grieving loved ones as the holy month of Ramadan approaches—usually a season of joy.
PT:What work are you doing to assist people through this trauma?
Mostashara Center: The Advisor Center for Psychological and Social Health is part of the emergency response program for the earthquake. We provided:
-A training program on psychological first aid techniques for specialists
-Eight sessions were held via Zoom, provided by local and international experts, as follows:
These workshops were recorded and published on the center's Telegram and YouTube channels.
We also took the initiative to provide a hotline to directly provide the necessary psychological support for all those in need, whether affected individuals, specialists, or shelter center officials. The hotline included several of our distinguished experts in providing all necessary expertise and technologies, including:
-Dr Daawa Al-Ahdab
-Dr Najwa Bannout
-Ms Maryam BultaJi
-Dr Rana Al-Sayed Ahmed
-Ms Noor Tabaa
-Ms Shatha Al-Bani
-Ms Hanaa Ghadban
-Ms Iman Allah Abu Bakr
-Dr Faten Tareef
The hotline service continued free of charge on Zoom and Telegram from 2/12/2023 to 2/21/2023.
The total number of beneficiaries was as follows:
-940 trainees in the training workshops
-520 cases on the hotline
-75 free therapy sessions
-54 practical training for volunteers in psychological first aid
We continued building a network of volunteers that exceeded 1000 on the WhatsApp platform.
PT: What do you wish Psychiatric Times’ readers knew about the current situation?
Most individuals have developed generalized anxiety, and some have shown symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder through behaviors like:
-Avoiding the places where they were exposed to the traumatic event (the earthquake)
-Sleep disturbances (most common symptom)
-Expecting that what happened will happen again soon
-Crying “for no reason.”
PT: In your experience, how do natural disasters impact the mental state of a country?
People are anxious and seeking excessive consultation, some are struggling with existential issues like “why does God allow this to happen?”
PT: What can/should psychiatrists do to help?
They can provide psychological support and prioritize mental recovery for parents because they are role models for their children in how to cope. We have seen that children who are supported by trusted adults recover more quickly.
PT: What systems are in place to help those that need it the most?
Providing support and psychological treatment from specialists and therapists in mental health centers, either in person or remotely, depending on the situation of the affected person. There are also sports and art clubs in some places for practicing exercises for psychological relief. The situation inside Syria seems worse given the lack of resources because of the protracted civil war.
PT: Thank you!