People with insufficient social support are at higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress symptoms [1]. Social network provides tangible support and emotional comfort, and strengthen social cohesion in the community [2]. The Great Hanshin Earthquake in Japan (1995) and Gujarat Earthquakes in India (2001) serve as examples of cases which suggest that people with social support recovered more quickly and were more satisfied with community rebuilding [2]. Post-disaster social support also strengthens the bond between those offering and receiving help [3]

If you are happy to lend a helping hand, you can do the following to minimize the psychological impacts on your loved ones and foster a speedy recovery for them [4] [5]

  • Encourage them to talk to you about how they are feeling. You may listen with empathy, i.e. be accepting and sensitive without judging them. If they do not want to talk, try not to force them
  • Encourage them to take part in tasks that requires attention. For example, children can participate in games like drawing, and healthy elderly can take up the responsibility to look after children
  • Encourage them to listen to the emergency advice with you
  • Teach them simple breathing exercises (see Resources: Psychoeducational Materials)
  • If they have religious belief, encourage them to gather and organize prayer groups or perform rituals as a source of comfort

Note:

  • [1] Adapted from Can People Benefit From Acute Stress? Social Support, Psychological Improvement, and Resilience After the Virginia Tech Campus Shootings (Mancini, Littleton, & Grills, 2016).
  • [2] Adapted from Social Capital and Community Resilience (Aldrich & Meyer, 2014).
  • [3] Adapted from Weighing the Costs of Disaster (Bonanno, Brewin, Kaniasty, & Greca, 2010).
  • [4] Adapted from Psychosocial support in disaster-affected communities (Rao, 2006).
  • [5] Adapted from Responsibilities of citizens during a disaster, Urgence Québec.