The Psychological Toll

There’s a little boy at Daniel’s kindy who lost his mother in the February 22nd earthquake. She was working in one of the buildings that collapsed; only worked three days a week and was planning to quit. At kindy this week, a teacher read a story called “It’s Okay to be Different”. One of the pages read something along the lines of “it’s okay to have two mummies or two daddies” or something similar (I don’t fully remember). When the teacher read it, the little boy called out “I don’t have a mummy”.

The earthquakes and ongoing aftershocks affect people in different ways.  Some people don’t appear to be remotely bothered by them. Others react and behave differently to how they used to. I have read about people sleeping fully clothed in case there’s an earthquake through the night; of stocking up on battery-powered lights; others being too afraid to have a shower in case there’s an aftershock while they’re in it. A friend of mine with a breast-fed infant has bought a tin of formula in case she dies in an aftershock her husband can still feed the baby. Another girl at Daniel’s kindy has taken to gripping the bedside table as she falls asleep in case there’s an earthquake: she’s poised and holding on already. Daniel used to fall asleep on his own and sleep through the night. Now he needs Ben to lie with him until he’s asleep and wakes every night to what sounds to us like he’s had a nightmare.

It’s not so much the initial earthquake itself that takes a toll psychologically but the ongoing aftershocks. The bigger the earthquake, the bigger the aftershocks and the longer the aftershock sequence. I feel very much for the people of Japan who are still waiting for their magnitude 8 aftershock. Rule of thumb is that you can expect an aftershock one magnitude below the initial earthquake. I imagine their aftershock sequence will continue for a number of years too.

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