Impact of Crisis, Trauma, and Disaster Events on Mental Health

Sam having been part of the composition of a neighborhood with devastating events, the impact of such an environment are life-long traumatizing. The impact on mental health of Sam could lead to inability to prioritize, indecisiveness, and a condition of slow reaction times. The fact being that Sam has responded to twelve critical incidents, each has the potential of inflicting trauma in him and consequently leading him to experience extended exhaustion (Levers, 2012). There is likelihood of Sam to still have more serious symptoms like cardiovascular and digestive involvement possibly presenting themselves if he continues to remain in stress.

Moreover, Sam having been exposed to grieving survivors and even frustrated family members, he experiences a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which would be characterized by various specific symptoms, including intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, changes in memory and concentration, startle responses, sleep disturbances, and hyper-arousal. According to Loughran (2011), symptoms of PTSD are highly hypothesized to epitomize the behavioral manifestation of stress-induced changes in the brain function and structure. Stress would consequently result in acute and chronic changes in the neurochemical systems and specific brain regions, which cause long-term brain changes “circuits” involved in the stress response.

Research shows that patients with PTSD to combat and others who have experienced disaster events like Sam have deficits in verbal declarative memory function based on neuropsychological testing. Studies on Paired Associate Recall and Auditory Verbal Learning Test have demonstrated specific deficits in verbal declarative memory function, with a considerable sparing of visual memory and IQ. Sam is seen seeing a counsellor for the last few months due to responder exhaustion as a result of PTSD which becomes painful and frightening. Sam experiences memories of the events vivid in his flashback. People who have gone through what Sam has experienced get traumatized and frightened tend to be on the edge and the slightest of cues which send them hurtling back inside protective shells. Many a times, such victims try to avoid objects, situations and people, who would remind them of their hurtful experiences. Such a behavior tends to be debilitating and always prevent them from living meaningful lives.

The case study of Sam presents an  agreement on the facts that the research on crisis, trauma and disaster events on mental health are associated with a wide range of social and psychological shocks to affected people, because of the changes in their way of living, their loss of livelihoods, physical and mental harm, damaged social networks(Shives, 2008). Nevertheless, there have been a considerable disagreement among the individuals working with the Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (CHE) about the validity of defining the impact on people affected by disaster events through the framework of a “Western” medical mode of mental health.

The impacts of an environment similar to the one Sam is experiencing has been shown in different researches to have devastating effects on individuals in both depression and PTSD. It has been shown in some studies that the rates of prevalence for the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among adults have ranged from 4.6% among Burmese refugees in Thailand to 37.2% among the Cambodian refugees in Thailand. The population of the United States has a 1% rate of post-traumatic stress disorder. Similar studies show that rates of depression in Bosnian refugees of 39%, approximately 42% of Burmese refugees, and about 68% of the Cambodian refugees(Levers, 2012).

Other studies have looked into the mental health impacts of crisis and disaster events on children and the extent to which they have suffered from both depression and post-traumatic stress. Even though, these studies on such populations have not been large enough to enable drawing of major conclusions on this subject. However, the studies suggest that children who have experienced conflict situations do suffer from high rates of both depression and PTSD. A survey carried on about 170 adolescent Cambodian refugees, for instance, deduced that almost 27% of them suffered from PTSD, while another survey conducted on 147 Bosnian children refugees showed that approximately 26% of the population suffered from depression (Shives, 2008).

When Sam started experiencing burn-out as a result of witnessing such a devastating critical life incidents, he needs a psychotropic medication –the most important issue is to ensure that such individuals are helped as rapid as possible in order to rebuild their lives and their social networks. This needs a number of social assistance and help in finding a place for the families to live, reuniting the families, rebuilding social networks and ensuring restoration of livelihoods for both the victims and the affected population.

A brief account of a personal traumatizing incident

One day when I was in 7th grade I was walking up the stairs in school when a student who was in front of me slipped down the stair cases knocking me unconsciously. I collapsed and hit my head on the hand rail. I was lying down bleeding uncontrollably while my head was so painful. The information of the incident reached the Dean’s office and an ambulance was organized to take to the hospital. All that time I was unconscious and when I became conscious I could hear my mum who sat next to my bed whispering, “My son wake up” while she was weeping.

A day later I was informed that the student who slipped on the stairs and knocked me down had been suffering from epilepsy and he died instantly on the scene. I can’t stop thinking of the innocent student and the entire incident for the better part of my life.

My family members and my mum in particular became traumatized as the incident had taken a life of a student and being that I bled so much with a prolonged unconsciousness they never thought I could survive. The incident has left fear, agony and trauma to me and my family as it happened that I was the last person the other student had contact with when he made his last breath.

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