Kids in quake-hit areas have nightmares, separation anxiety

CEBU. In this file photo, pupils of a public elementary school in Cebu City participate in an earthquake drill. (File Photo)

AFTER experiencing three successive powerful earthquakes, children in Mindanao now have to deal with separation anxiety and constant nightmares, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

In an interview, DOH-Health Emergency Management Staff (HEMS) Director Gloria Balboa disclosed that the initial assessment of their psycho-social teams deployed in evacuation centers is that many children are experiencing nightmares and separation anxiety.

"We found that many children are afraid to go to school as they are afraid that there could be aftershocks while they are in schools," said Balboa.

"There are also those (who) have nightmares and have a hard time sleeping," she added.

The health official said such findings are unsurprising as they are common manifestations of trauma.

"It is possible if one, especially a child, experiences such types of trauma," explained Balboa.

She said this is where debriefing and de-stressing activities will be vital to children as a form of intervention.

"Just let them talk. Discuss about their fears. That is what we call psychologcal first aid," she pointed.

Another form of intervention, Balboa said, is making sure that they are with their families and relatives.

"Those who got separated, we must reconnect them. Because family is a big factor in one being able to cope with the trauma," said the official.

Other forms of intervention, said Balboa, is by providing entertainment activities to families, especially children.

"We do art therapy for children. We let them draw. This way, their fears and stress are being released," said Balboa.

So far, she said they have yet to find cases where one needs a higher level of psychological care.

"These are the ones needed to be refered to psychiatrists. Most likely, these are those who already have issues before and was just aggravated by the trauma," said Balboa.

Last month, the province of Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao suffered from 3 succeeding strong earthquakes with the first with magnitude 6.3 on October 16, the second with magnitude 6.6 on October 29, and the third with magnitude 6.5 on October 31. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)


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