Fukushima and the forgotten victims
Earlier this week, I received the following email from a colleague:
For a second time, along with a team of Americans, its off to Japan to make a difference for victims in shelters in and around Sendai, Japan.
Please consider what you might be able to do to acknowledge the remaining victims in the shelters who were not lucky enough to have any money or relatives that would enable them to leave the shelters.
As their hope fades, their chances of choosing suicide increase (Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world).
Remember to appreciate and value who you have and what you have – while you still have them…
I imagine that given the Japanese culture, suicide is seen as an honorable choice rather than dependence on others. But who talks about this? Certainly our MSM has all but ignored the Fukushima disaster in recent weeks and I don’t recall a single mention anywhere of the shelters and sense of hopelessness and helplessness that is being felt by those with no where to go.
From the Associated Press:
Survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami need long-term mental health care to protect them from debilitating conditions that could lead to suicide, Japan’s government said Friday.
In its annual policy paper on suicide prevention, the Cabinet Office decided to include a separate section on the psychological needs of disaster victims. The report said survivors may be undergoing shock, stress and depression from the overwhelming losses. They may also feel guilty for escaping death.
More than 23,000 are dead or missing, and entire towns along Japan’s northeast coast were washed away.
Observers around the world have lauded survivors’ calm demeanor in the face of tragedy and destruction, but the report warns against assumptions that the Japanese could largely withstand problems like post traumatic stress disorder.
“In fact, we cannot determine this until we are able to obtain detailed information,” the report said.
Japan already has one of the highest suicide rates in the industrialized world, with nearly 25 suicides per 100,000 people. That compares to about 11 per 100,000 in the United States.
Don’t know if I told you but I recently attended a local Red Cross chapter meeting and apparently mental health issues are one of the most common post disaster ailments. Who knew? My assumption was that food, water and shelter were the most dire needs but surprisingly, dealing with the mental health consequences of a disaster are high on the list of rescue and deployment needs.
So how does one cope? Is there some way we can prepare ourselves mentally for a disaster or other catastrophe? I have been noodling this around for about a week and here are my thoughts.
Tips for preparing yourself mentally for a natural disaster
Dealing with a stressful situation is highly individualized since each of us brings to the table a unique set of emotions based on prior life experiences. Still, there are things we can do to prepare ourselves mentally for the big IF.
1. Develop resilience by practicing your ability to cope with daily ups and downs in life now, while you are safe. How? Next time a stressful situation occurs, take a deep breath and think about the long term consequences of what has happened. In the big picture of life, is this single occurrence going to change things? Is it worth a temper tantrum or other form of meltdown? Try to stay calm and divert your stress by taking on a productive or relaxing activity. The more your practice staying calm during the daily fluctuations in life, the better you will cope when something major occurs.
2. Manage fear through knowledge. Be informed. Learn to shelter in place. Know your neighbors. Scope out a get away route in advance. The internet has thousands of resources available for free. So does your local library. The more you know, the less you will suffer the consequences and debilitating effects of fear.
3. Prepare your supplies and have an emergency kit. This sounds so simple but how many of you read about emergency food and water supplies and a bug out kit but have done nothing? Start small and take baby steps (see Fast Forward to 2011. This is the year to embrace self-sufficiency.)
4. Have a plan and write it down. Review your options ahead of time so you have concrete decisions about what to do before something unexpected happens. I have often mentioned that a good place to post your plan is on the inside of your hall closet door. When a disaster occurs there will be no scrambling around, no need to think about the next step, no need to panic and say “what now?”. Having a plan in place – whether it is 100% workable or not – with be calming and will free your mind to react to the catastrophe is a product manner.
What else can I do to help myself and others after a disaster or other catastrophe?
Good question. Although you may feel that life may never be the same again (and it probably won’t), here are some additional tips for coping. And please, take my advice and include this list in your emergency kit, on your emergency flash drive , and posted on your closet door.
- Get your supplies kit and use your plan.
- Take care of your immediate and ongoing physical needs.
- Get exercise, rest, drink plenty of water and eat healthy meals whenever you can.
- Return to your daily routines whenever and wherever possible.
- Recognize people’s strengths, including your own, as well as their suffering.
- Share your experiences when you are ready to do so.
- Spend time with other people.
- Remind yourself of your strengths.
- Reflect on how you have dealt with problems in the past.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Remind yourself that in time, distressing feelings will fade.
- Find opportunities to unwind.
- Allow others to spend time by themselves. Spend time by yourself if that helps.
- Mark the event in a symbolic way, such as a service or memorial, alone or with other people
Enjoy your next adventure, wherever it takes you through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
From the Bargain Bin: I don’t know about you but I am sick of paying $40 or more for a set of ear buds that fail after a year (or less of use.) Not only that, most only come with a 90 day warranty. Time to wise up S.W. My nice set of Sonix ear buds are now toast so this time I am going to purchase some cheapies and simply assume that I will need to replace them every few months. I found these at Skullcandy INK’d Earbuds at Amazon on sale for $9.95 with free shipping. This is about $4 less than they were a few days ago and with over 400 five star reviews, they can’t be too bad. Lots of neat colors, too.
Emergency Essentials is a great source of food for long term storage as well as supplies. I just received an email letting me know that they now have Mountain House products in stock. This is great news since Mountain House foods have been backordered for quite some time.