However, Maureen Mooney believes the difficult experience of coping through last September’s earthquake may eventually help devastated Christchurch residents who survived today’s disaster.
Ms Mooney, who is working on a short research project with Massey, has just returned from Pakistan where as a consultant for the Red Cross she has been training people in psychosocial support following the severe flooding in that country.
It was normal that the reactions of people involved in a natural disaster like the floods and the Christchurch earthquake are powerful and upsetting when they are responding to such an abnormal situation, she says.
“However this population has learnt, in a very difficult way, from last September’s earthquake and the following powerful aftershock earthquakes, what are their strengths and this may be helpful to them in responding to this disaster.
“In the depths of this present crisis, most people will, with basic support, be able to slowly cope. We need to be able to provide this immediate support so that their recent capacity to cope with an earthquake can come to the fore. We must also at first recognise and try and alleviate their suffering.”
Below is a link to the homepage for the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, based at the School of Psychology, which has prepared fact sheets for different sectors of the population trying to cope amid the tragedy.
The Centre is a joint venture between the University and GNS Science.
The fact sheets offer tips on helping children, adolescents and families in the wake of a disaster, identifies common reactions to disasters, how to recognise and respond to the stress of being under threat and what to do when someone you know has been through a traumatic experience.
In addition there is information for communities, as well as health staff and volunteers and a guide for emergency response workers and their managers.
Please go to http://disasters.massey.ac.nz/index.htm and click on “Advice about disaster stress”
Massey sociologist and public education adviser Dr Miriam Hughes says one huge adjustment the Christchurch residents will have to make is how they view their physically altered city.
“The damage to icons like the Cathedral that are instantly identified with Christchurch is going to change the physical and geographical landscape. It will change how people see their city and how they orientate themselves around it.”