Is psychological normalization possible after an earthquake?

Emphasizing the importance of normalization after traumatic events, especially natural disasters such as earthquakes, Psychiatrist Prof. Nevzat Tarhan draws attention to the importance of gaining problem-solving skills. Noting that it is necessary to define the problem first and then determine possible solutions, Tarhan said, “Then it is necessary to make a decision and proceed on that solution path. It is necessary not to go back to the beginning again and again… Instead of saying ‘I'm ruined, I'm dead, I'm done’, it is necessary to practice solution solving. Pain, difficulties, troubles are part of growing up. At the end of these, growth is already emerging. That’s why, the worst enemy here is to be pessimistic.”.

President of Üsküdar University, Psychiatrist Prof. Nevzat Tarhan evaluated the importance of post-earthquake normalization. Noting that the most important point after natural disasters such as earthquakes is to meet the basic needs, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said, “First of all, basic needs such as food, drink and shelter should be met. After their basic needs are met, this post-traumatic recovery and return to normal is easier. Therefore, if the basic needs are met, it is necessary to talk about post-traumatic recovery and returning to normal.”.

Disaster management planning should be done

Indicating the importance of making a disaster management plan about what needs to be done before and after the disaster, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said, “In the literature on disasters, there are plans for disaster management, what should be done before, during and after the disaster. It is important that these plans are made by the relevant institutions and then these plans are implemented gradually. According to this plan, there should be a disaster response plan, a recovery plan in the second stage after the disaster, and a reconstruction plan in the third stage.”.

We have seen that lessons must be learned

Emphasizing that the necessary lessons should be learned about the outcome after the Kahramanmaraş-centered earthquakes that devasted the whole country, Tarhan said, “We have seen all this, we need to learn some lessons. Before an earthquake, a standard, a policy should be established. Deficiencies related to this should be completed. If there is confidence that the deficiencies will be corrected, it is easy for people to recover after the disaster. After this disaster, we need to review our daily, sudden decision, the feeling that nothing will happen to us, and this culture.”.

Noting that especially for the expected Istanbul earthquake, not only the administrators but also the society have duties, Tarhan said, “Making a plan primarily by the institutions and the announcement of this plan create the basic feeling of trust in people. For this plan to be implemented, the society must accept it. The society also needs to give feedback on this issue. Let's not just expect it from the administrators, we all need to be sensitive about this issue.”.

Everyone has a different way of coping 

Expressing that after disasters, traumatic and shock experiences, everyone has a different coping method according to their personality, cultural values and local culture. Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said, “It is seen that the most post-traumatic cases alcohol addicts among the veterans coming with this war trauma in Western societies, especially in the USA. In other words, it is seen that alcohol addiction is developed at a rate of one third among these soldiers, that is, alcohol use is used as a coping method. It is not that common with us. Another coping method is avoidance behavior. In other words, never talking about earthquake-related issues, never getting into these issues, that is, ignoring them in a way. This is not realistic either. The behavior of avoiding the facts of life is not very healthy either when it appears in front of a person, when they think about it or when their children ask about it.”.

The third coping method is mental shelter

Stating that the third coping method is third generation psychotherapies, Tarhan said that this is a very common religious coping method in our society. Noting that people take refuge in beliefs and high values in situations such as natural disasters, where they cannot control and are not strong enough, Tarhan said, “Third generation psychotherapies have 12 steps. One of them is to take refuge in a higher power, a higher will, in situations that one cannot control or change. That is, a person has a mental shelter… A person has experienced an event. This is not only a disaster such as an earthquake, but also a great sense of anger and revenge in unexpected events such as a traffic accident. That grudge, anger and feeling of revenge is not something to be carried for a lifetime. One has to accept it and manage it. A person should accept the style of "I have to live this, so this will come my way in my life line" and focus on how to manage it. So, one has to prepare for the worst-case scenario and wait for the best-case scenario. Mindfulness suggests this: Prepare for the worst-case scenario, but wait for the best-case scenario. Have a mental plan, a scenario of what you will do if the same thing happens to me again. After that, wait for the good, do not wait for the bad scenario. Take your precautions, prepare for the winter, wait for the summer… These are the beautiful teachings of Anatolian wisdom. In Mindfulness, the person is taught the techniques related to this.”.

Problem solving skills must be acquired...

Emphasizing the importance of gaining problem-solving skills, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said, “It is important to define the problem first, and secondly to identify possible solutions after defining it. Then you need to decide and move forward on that solution path. You must not go back over and over. What happens when the person does this? It is problem solving skills. This is something that can really be applied in any life event, trauma, shock experience, or exam weak. Instead of saying ‘I'm ruined, I'm dead, I'm done...’. Pain, difficulties, troubles are a part of growing up anyway. At the end of these, growth is already emerging. That’s why, the worst enemy here is to be pessimistic.”.

We need to focus on the future

Stating that in cases such as trauma, one should not be pessimistic and that lessons should be learned, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said, “In such events, instead of saying 'Why?', 'What should I do next? What should I do so that it doesn't happen again?’ it is necessary to think and focus on ‘what kind of path should I draw with the survivors and my loved ones?’ The person has to take precautions against the bad scenario, write a good scenario, move in that direction and set a goal for themselves. Otherwise, 50 minutes out of 60 minutes will be spent thinking about it. No nervous system and no soul can withstand this for long.”.

We will get through this difficult period

Noting that the post-earthquake period is definitely one of the most difficult periods of life, Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said, “This is a difficult period of our lives. Just as there are autumn, winter, spring and summer in human life, there are such periods in human life. We will get through this difficult period somehow like how do we prepare for the winter and get through the winter comfortably. We will get through these periods as well, but preparation is needed. If you are not prepared and take precautions when winter comes, you will have difficulties, just like that in life. There are difficult times in this life as well. We need to get through these periods somehow.”

Social support is very important during the recovery period

Prof. Nevzat Tarhan stated that if the children's sense of hope and confidence is kept high, recovery will be easy, and he also added that adults also have a recovery period after trauma. Tarhan also said that social support is very important during this recovery period.


Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)