Important call from expert psychologist: ‘Children must face these facts’

Although earthquakes in Kahramanmaraş have affected society as deeply as the region’s devastation, children are most affected by this process. While many children’s families cannot be reached, many children lost their lives and many families died. While the children, who were experiencing great psychological destruction, tried to return to normalcy, experts warned.

‘We must reestablish the new order of the children’

Pelin Dağ, a specialist in child and youth health care and diseases at Mersin City Hospital, said a month has passed since the earthquake and the problems faced by children vary.

Emphasizing that in the one-month period after the earthquake, especially in children, anxiety, which they call acute stress symptoms, such as anxiety and sleep, Dağ said: “Now a month has passed. It is no longer a stress disorder, we have entered a period of traumatic grief and childhood post-traumatic stress disorder. After this process, if our children still have anxiety symptoms that affect their functionality, they need further evaluation. We are now past the acute phase. During this time, we have provided for the basic needs of food, shelter and safety for children. After the expiration of this period, we assume that these needs of children have been met. Now we will follow our children in the next step. We must restore the children’s new order. So we have to do what we used to do. We have to somehow get them to continue. It’s school, it’s their daily business, we have to get into it gradually. With this week we expect that the children’s complaints will decrease. In other words, their fear will decrease, their reactions will decrease, but if it still does not decrease, if the problem persists, this weakens our hand that it will decrease over time. Therefore, the child should definitely receive support from a specialist,” he said.

“We expect these symptoms to diminish and disappear”

Noting that everyone is constantly struggling with the feeling of an ‘earthquake’ during this period, Dağ said, “The memory experiences that earthquake over and over again and actually tries to process it. So he tries to take care of his own safety. This will decrease over time. If you’ve noticed, you may not be feeling the earthquakes as often as you used to over the past week. It can feel like it’s wobbling if you pay a lot of attention to it. These are normal symptoms, but we expect them to diminish and disappear after a few days in both children and adults. If it doesn’t go away, it’s a mental problem anyway, and if this situation impairs your functionality, if you can’t go to work, if you can’t go to your house, if kids can’t go to school, if they can’t see their mother can leave, this is a situation that requires further intervention.”

‘Children have lost a lot in this process’

Dağ underlined that children are seriously affected by this process and said: “The spectrum is very broad. We also have children who have not only lost their toys, but we also have children who have lost their mother, father or arm or foot. This is also the factor that changes the effect of trauma on children. Moreover, since our children’s background, their own mental toughness, who is with them now, who they can connect with, who they can trust, the situations of the children who come to us change along with it. The important thing here is: There is no generally accepted information. In other words, each child’s soul and trauma is special. That’s why saying “do the following” usually gets some kids lost in the middle. Each child must be assessed individually. Children have lost a lot in this process. They lost their toys, their homes, their mothers, their fathers. Here children have to face these facts. Approaches like “let’s hide it, don’t be influenced by it” are not very correct. Because children are affected by it. They have lost something big or small. A toy that is small to us can be something important to them. Our children must face these facts and complete this grieving process together with the whole country. Otherwise, we may be dealing with long-term traumatic grief. If so, the parents, if not, the people they trust the most, should give the children accurate, non-detailed information on this matter.”

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