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Friday, January 31, 2014

One In Four Tsunami Kids Needs Psychiatric Help

You read that headline and go - wow… is that all? Only 25 per cent?!

On March 11, 2011 a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake spawned a massive tsunami that crashed along the northeast coast of Japan, responsible for the deaths of over 18,000 people… tearing apart families.

A recent study has found that 25.9 per cent of kids aged between three and five suffer from a host of psychological problems such as: vertigo, nausea and headaches, with some exhibiting worrying behavior such as violence or withdrawal.

I assume those physical illnesses are psychosomatic effects of the trauma felt after seeing friends being swept out, homes destroyed, family separation, living in make-shift housing, or even seeing the huge wall of water sweeping towards them. (I took a lot of psychology courses in university.)

I watch the videos of the tsunami every once in a while to re-ground myself back into reality, and it still gives me the shivers. I can only imagine the horror faced by the people who survived it. And the kids… ugh. It hurts.

The study says that with such alarmingly high numbers or REPORTED trauma - and you know there are plenty who will attempt to hide it - there is a fear that there are not enough psychiatrists to handle the numbers… and unless the kids receive help quickly, it could impact upon them negatively for the rat of their life.

Hmmm… I actually wrote about this scenario back in 2011 HERE (talking about a coping center)... and especially HERE in 2012 (where I discuss mental health issues after the tsunami) with another blog HERE (with some great information from Andrew Grimes of Tokyo Counseling Services). Maybe these mental health folks who want to do studies should read this blog for some ideas.

According to Kure Shigeo (surname first), a professor at the Tohoku University School of Medicine who led the study, some of the negatives that could impact the children include: developmental disorders and learning disabilities, which would affect academic achievement and employment prospects, "as they may have trouble in communicating with other people due to the influence of experiences related to the disaster."

Kure says that the study looked at 178 children from Iwate-ken, Miyagi-ken and Fukushima-ken, after receiving permission from their parents or guardians. They used an globally-recognized child behavior checklist as they interviewed the kids between September 2012 and June 2013.

Unfortunately, only 178 kids were part of the study. I would imagine that more were asked to be in the study - but there is still a stigma regarding mental health and the fear of not being considered 'normal' that played a huge role in that relatively small sample size.

But don't blame the Japanese... that crap goes on in every single country in the world... though I'm thinking that that attitude is changing - slowly - for the better.

The findings show that in those three areas, kids requiring some level of psychiatric help are up to three times that of kids in areas unaffected by the tsunami, who are generally in the 8% range.

"I was surprised at the percentage of children who need medical care. I didn’t expect it would be this high," Kure said.

And I say "WTF??!!" These kids experienced horror, horror and more horror, and the Japanese psych professional didn't expect it to be traumatizing for them?

Can we get a therapist in who has a clue and doesn't need to be spoon-fed data?

He now realizes that things are worse than feared: "I imagine there are lots of children, who seemingly are leading normal lives but show behavior that needs a doctor’s attention, for example, waking up suddenly at midnight or biting their nails."

An official at Japan's Health Ministry said it would closely examine the final report when it is produced in around two months’ time and consider whether current psychiatric healthcare provision is meeting needs.

Ah… good… and what if it isn't? Where the hell do you get the psychiatric professionals from? You need specialists who deal with children… that's a special training… so… what do you do? Do you ask for international help? Have someone who doesn't speak Japanese come in and talk and listen to the kids?

And… Japan is not the only country with issues like this. Look at any country scarred by war, famine, disease, disaster… poor economics…

And... I can tell you for a fact, the victims are not necessarily just the ones who die.

And... sometimes, it's not just the ones who suffer trauma that are the victims, but also the ones that are around the one's with trauma.

Japan is going to need a lot of help still.

No cheers here.
Andrew Joseph

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