Floods: Psychosocial support essential for well-being of children

Floods: Psychosocial support essential for well-being of children

KUALA LUMPUR: The widespread devastation, resulting in loss of lives and damage to properties due to the recent floods can have a psychological effect on adults as well as children.

As such, Early Childhood Education specialist and child psychologist, Dr Putri Afzan Maria Zulkifli believes that psychological and emotional support is exceptionally important in maintaining the groups, especially children’s physical and mental health and increasing their ability to cope after the traumatic experience.

She said among the basics for a child’s physical and mental health is a safe and secure living environment.

“Stressful situations like a natural disaster can cause anxiety and stress among them (children) as living with the uncertainty of flood risks, they will feel unsafe and lose their sense of security.

“In this situation, parents are advised to always communicate positively and share with them the steps that are being taken to keep them safe and reassure them that several parties are working to help them and the community to recover after the disaster.

“Give them basic information to help them understand, without providing unnecessary details that may only alarm them further,” Dr Putri Afzan told Bernama.

According to her, the post floods short and long-term effects have now added up to the post-pandemic phase of Covid-19 and this must be taken into account in looking into the psychological development of these children.

She said in this situation, social stories could also be used as a therapy or intervention technique in managing emotions in children.

“The fact is, the Covid-19 pandemic is still not over and the prolonged MCO lockdown had already created an impact on children. Whether they are directly involved or not, their emotional and psychological state must be given attention.

“Be sure to ask children what questions or concerns they have and be mindful of their emotional needs and I would say, social stories would be of great help.

Social stories, a concept devised by Carol Gray in 1991 was a tool to help individuals with autistic spectrum disorder to improve their social skills and help understand how others respond to certain situation.

Meanwhile, Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital, Seremban Psychology Counseling Unit head, Noor Suraya Muhamad opined that children’s mental and physical condition could deteriorate if the post-flood impact on them is not addressed at an early stage.

According to her, their level of anxiety and emotional trauma has the potential to lead to more significant behavioral changes such as tantrums, insomnia, loss of appetite and social withdrawal.

“The social cohesion of the community and family before the disaster and after the recovery process and the constant presence of family members and togetherness in times of difficulties could reduce the people’s suffering and are more effective in helping victims cope with post traumatic stress.

“This is also among the components of psychological first aid (PFA), which has been integrated into guidelines for mental health and psychosocial support of victims, especially children in disasters and traumatic events.” she said.

As of yesterday, a total of 37 deaths and 10 reports of missing persons were recorded in flooded areas nationwide, said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani.

A total of 68,341 flood victims from 18,080 families are seeking shelter at 396 relief centres in seven states. Pahang is the worst affected, others badly hit are Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Kelantan and Negeri Sembilan.