Mysuru: Every disaster that happens, such as a flood, will definitely leave impacts on the individuals in terms of the feeling of loss and grief. This inspires counsellors to find the most appropriate counselling approach in dealing with these victims of flood disasters.
It has been close to two weeks since Mother Nature wreaked havoc on Kodagu and Kerala and the after-affects are being felt now more than ever. The floods and landslides caused not only physical damage to the infrastructure, but also emotional damage to the residents.
As the Kodagu District Administration is helping out the victims to piece together the cut off strands of life by confidence-building measures like providing food and shelter at various flood relief camps in Madikeri and Somwarpet Taluks, a group of research scholars from the University of Mysore is silently doing their bit in counselling the victims, helping them to cope with the tragedy and come out of the trauma.
Breaking the ice
The team is engaged in helping victims assess the situation and pay particular attention to any factors in the area that may compromise a person’s safety. They are striking a communication with the victims (breaking the ice) and are checking with the victims to see if their basic human needs are being met — food, water, shelter, medication.
The Department of Studies in Psychology has sent two teams to Kodagu and Kerala for counselling. The teams are well-versed in the local language (Malayalam in Kerala and Kannada in Kodagu).The students who are counselling victims of Kerala are even aware of the geographical conditions there.
While Ameena and Gayathri Balram are leading the counselling of Kerala flood victims, Deepika and Bhavya are leading the team in Kodagu. Two more groups of research scholars are ready to leave to Kodagu in a day or two. Speaking to Star of Mysore, Dr. G. Venkatesh Kumar, Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychology, said that the students are counselling the flood victims and their families, helping them to come out of the traumatic situation.
“Witnessing destruction and loss of lives and hard-earned properties in front of their eyes causes depression and a panic situation is created. We want the victims to come out of this phase. We are mainly focusing on women and children and also youth,” he said.
The initial stages of a flood can evoke intense feelings of shock and distress. However, these feelings can last far beyond the first days of the disaster. It is important to recognise that everyone will have a different response in these types of situations and that each person processes crises in their own way, he explained.
Hearing out victims
“One of the best ways to comfort someone in need is to be available to hear what they have to say. This is not a time to offer advice or opinions, this is an opportunity to let the individual express their feelings in a non-judgemental environment. You do not need to respond with words as people will be content with you just listening to them,” Prof. Kumar explained.
In Kerala, the University of Mysore is working closely with the Psychology Department of University of Calicut to counsel victims. “We are also providing assistance to them in moving forward and taking the next step like directing people to seek professional help to rebuild their lives,” he added.
When asked about the duration of the counselling, Prof. Kumar said that no deadline has been fixed as the students are research scholars who do not have mandatory attendance. “It is important to remember that people need support not only during the flood but in the days following as this is the time when mental health issues can begin to develop,” he explained.
District Administration plays its role
Psychiatrists from Kodagu Institute of Medical Sciences have been roped in by the Kodagu District Administration to counsel the victims. Assistant Professor and Psychiatrist Dr. Roopesh Gopal had organised a training session for district doctors, psychologists and MSW students at the District Hospital auditorium.
Dr. Roopesh Gopal has served for five years in the Indian Army and had counselled the soldiers. Now he is assigned the task to groom the counselling teams who in turn will counsel flood victims.
Speaking at the training session, Dr. Roopesh opined that the flood victims were badly traumatised losing their hard-earned property right in front of their eyes. He hence felt that the mental status along with physical health of the victims should be revived methodically to instil conference in them to get back to their lives.
Counselling is being done at 11 relief centres. Apart from counselling, Yoga is being used to calm the turbulent minds and a Yoga team of 30 members are doing their bit in Kodagu.