As the death toll from the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami climbed above 200,000, a University of Washington psychologist who just returned from Indonesia warned of a new danger among the survivors – a mental health crisis.
"We are seeing children petrified by seeing water in a tub or cowering when large airplanes are flying overhead because they sound like rushing water," said Randall Kyes, a research associate professor of psychology and head of the division of international programs at the UWs National Primate Research Center.
Kyes said some children had begun to stop talking and adults were beginning to experience nightmares and severe insomnia. "The critical period is now and for the next six months. You dont meet a single person who didnt lose someone," said Kyes, who spent a week in Banda Aceh, once a city of more than 250,000 people that was the hardest hit by the twin disasters. He worked in Indonesia helping to set up an emergency psychological trauma center and in recovering bodies of victims. "People are past the tears and the immediate loss, and now reflection sets in and trauma is beginning to surface. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people, and thats just in the province of Aceh. The number jumps into the millions when you consider the scope of the disaster in all of the countries involved."
Joel Schwarz | EurekAlert!
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