As the world pulls together to deliver physical necessities such as food, water and shelter, we must remember to respond to the emotional healing that is needed nationwide in Haiti as well.
Following the earthquake, the children will experience post-traumatic stress and they will have deep scars, physically and emotionally, that must be tended to.
In the beginning, most children will be in emotional and physical shock. They will be grateful for medical and physical care, they’ll play and act as though nothing of such magnitude occurred; they will be dazed. Until the shock has diminished, they will act like children do, as though they are resilient – but they are not.
With time, reality will slowly set in. Children will wonder where their family is. They will feel anger, confusion, fear and stress. These changes will at first be incomprehensible, and they must be addressed.
Recovery will not take place overnight, and there will be many phases of recovery for these victims. A timeline of what can be done to help the children and adults in Port-au-Prince should follow:
- Design a system/database that will provide the medical attention needed to all victims.
- Deploy an emotional support program. For example, my organization, Rainbows, has a Silver Linings program. It is a community support program for counselors, volunteers, churches and any other relief organizations needing additional tools to assist youth experiencing emotional turmoil due to loss or change.
- Begin forming community support groups within tent cities.
- Long term care for Haiti should be set up now – the novelty of this disaster is already wearing off, and the phases of recovery, both physical and emotional, should be set into place immediately.
Near Future Care
- Formalize closure for families, including memorial services.
- Determine how to rebuild and who should be involved.
- Talk with citizens about self protection including food, housing, schooling, etc.
- Address fears of future earthquakes.
With a disaster of this magnitude, there aren’t enough clinicians in Haiti to offer the support that is needed. Organizations such as Rainbows For All Children can help guide these children through this horrific event and its aftermath. I strongly encourage society to take part in this long road to recovery. To assist with emotional relief efforts or to learn more about Rainbows, please visit www.rainbows.org.Tags: grief, hope
Thank you for the sage counsel Suzy. The news media coverage — when there was coverage of this waning-from-memory tragedy — often showed smiling “resilient” children with voice-over commentary about the strength of the Haitian people. But you are so right Suzy … the deep, emotional scars need attention. And they will need attention for many many years. I pray there will be greater recognition of this ongoing need.