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Mental Health Center

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Tsunami Aftershock: Grief, Sickness

Disease, Mental Health Woes Yet to Peak as Tsunami Disaster Continues

Tsunami Aftershocks in America continued...

Few among us are not deeply moved by the tsunami disaster. Fewer still feel no empathy for the survivors' plight. And the awful scenes of human grief make us remember the losses we've suffered in our own lives and the disasters we've survived.

"If you can afford to help, it can actually make the giver feel better, to feel you have made some contribution to the recovery effort after the tsunami," Marshall says. "Forty percent of Americans made donations after 9/11. People said that was the way they coped. Being part of the world effort to reach out to these poor people helps us, too."

Whenever and wherever there's a disaster, people have one need in common: other people.

"For those very disturbed by the tsunami and experiencing a lot of distress, the most important way to deal with this is to really talk about it with other loved ones and friends and family and your local neighborhood community," Marshall says. "When one is extremely distressed, there is a remarkable comfort in the presence of other people."

Some of us will need more.

"There will be people who find themselves replaying images of the tsunami in their minds, or imagining over and over again what it would be like to be swept out to sea and drown," Marshall says. "There will be those who will reexperience their own trauma because the tsunami triggered that memory. Often that can be temporary. But it is important for someone experiencing something like that to try to control that in their own mind. Try distraction, try talking to someone else. Don't sit alone with these frightening images and dwell on it. It can pass, but if someone stuck with these images, it may be good to seek professional consultation."

Tsunami Aftershock: What to Tell the Kids

Very little children don't need to be made aware of frightening events that will only scare them. But at a surprisingly tender age, children usually find out when something is wrong.

"A 4- or 5-year-old will pick this up. You can't shield kids from this kind of thing," Marshall says. "So if the child is in school, you might ask whether they are worrying or thinking about the tsunami. You might be surprised that they are, even if they aren't talking about it."

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