Health officials to help quake victims

Mental health support teams from local hospitals in the North are being summoned to help earthquake victims cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Public Health Ministry said.

Permanent Secretary for Public Health Narong Sahametapat said on Monday that while victims' physical injuries are limited or slight, the mental state of people in northern provinces — Lampang, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Nan and Phayao — may prove problematic in the long run, especially in areas where homes were destroyed and hit by further aftershocks.

The earthquake that rocked parts of northern Thailand on May 5 measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and triggered 300 aftershocks which left many frightened people. Many are still camping out in the open, too afraid to stay in their damaged homes even though they have been told to return.

The National Disaster Warning Centre said even though the major quake has past, areas near its epicentre may still experience minor tremors.

For the next two weeks, mental health teams will focus on groups who are more prone to PTSD, such as those who have had their homes destroyed or have had family members injured.

Others include the elderly, young children, and the disabled, he said.

These groups comprise more than 20,000 people.

Director of the Mental Health department Jetsada Chokedumrongsuk said about half the residents of tambon Pongphrae in the Mhae Lao district were experiencing PTSD.

Two individuals suffering from delayed shock have been taken to Mhae Lao Hospital.

The Department of Mental Health had arranged for three teams each day to assist victims in Mhae Lao district.

Two of the teams deal with adults and one team deals with children.

Dr Jetsada said the Mental Health Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (MCATT) had found more than half of young earthquake victims are affected by PTSD.

The team had visited victims at the temporary rescue camp at Baan Huaysanyaow, Mhae Lao district, where 35 children were situated.

Most at the camp witnessed their homes being wrecked by the earthquake.

The MCATT discovered that those aged from nine to 13 years suffered various forms of mental strain such as repeated nightmares, bedwetting, reluctance to visit the toilet unaccompanied, and being easily spooked.

The MCATT had given assessment and treatment training to local staff to help those affected.

Healing methods include playing, children's activities and storytelling.

Additionally, the list of children affected had been sent to Mhae Lao hospital in case they need further help.

Dr Jetsada had drafted advice on how adults could determine if their child has experienced PTSD.

It was broadcast on local radio by staff from Phan hospital.

Dr Jetsada said recovery times for children will vary.

If they have not returned to their normal state of wellbeing after three months, they must be brought to the hospital for more treatment.

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