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Coping With The Uncertainty Of Earthquake Aftershocks

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Coping With The Uncertainty Of Earthquake Aftershocks

The uncertainty of how long aftershocks will continue to rattle the Canterbury region is driving the anxiety of its residents, a trauma specialist says.

Clinical psychologist Ian de Terte says if residents knew when the aftershocks would stop they would be better prepared to cope with the duration of the sporadic earthquake activity.

"What is debilitating is at this stage it appears there is no end to the aftershocks," Mr de Terte says. "If you can normalise what is happening and know at some stage they will end then people can usually find they can cope okay."

He also says people may be internalising their reactions to the aftershocks because the original earthquake happened four months ago.

"This could be due to a feeling that the earthquake has faded from the news headlines and therefore is no longer perceived as significant, leading to a perception among some that 'I should be coping,'" Mr de Terte says. "But actually it's okay if you feel you need some help and we encourage it."

With GNS Science social scientist Julia Becker, Mr de Terte, from the University's School of Psychology, is to visit Canterbury and research the psychological impact of the aftershocks to different areas in the region.

The research will focus on areas where the most intense aftershocks have been felt and places like Kaiapoi, which was also badly damaged in the initial September 4 earthquake.

Key questions the research would address included what coping mechanisms residents were using to mediate the levels of stress being felt.

The Joint Centre for Disaster Research, based at the School of Psychology, has prepared fact sheets for different sectors of the population trying to cope amid the uncertainty wrought by the aftershocks arising from the Canterbury earthquake.

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.

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