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School Collapse: Incorporate trained psychiatric team into NEMA – Consultant Psychiatrist

A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Tomi Imarah, has called for the assemblage of trained psychiatrists and incorporate them into the existing National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Emergency personnel rescue a child at the site of a building which collapsed in Lagos on March 13, 2019. – At least 10 children were among scores of people missing on March 13, 2019 after a four-storey building collapsed in Lagos, with rescuers trying to reach them through the roof of the damaged structure. The children were attending a nursery and primary school on the top floor of the residential building when the structure collapsed. Police said they believed scores of people were trapped under the rubble. (Photo AFP)
Imarah, who runs an online mental health counselling service tagged: “Dr, Tomi Haven”, made the call in an interview on Saturday in Lagos.

According to her, the team is to offer Psychological First Aid (PFA) to the victims of an emergency situation across the country, including children and family members.

She spoke against the backdrop of the March 13 collapsed school building at Ita-Faaji, Lagos Island, in which 20 were confirmed dead, while no fewer than 45 people were receiving medical attention.
Imarah also urged the Lagos State Ministry of Health to raise a team of psychiatrists and collaborate with the State Emergency Management Agency to conduct a prompt assessment of the victims and give them psychological support.
She called on others affected by the incident to visit the psychiatric unit of the General Hospital to access psychological support.
Imarah said that the psychiatric team should consist of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, crisis counsellors, among others.

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She said: “The team will make contact and engage victims or survivors in an empathetic and non-intrusive manner.
“PFA will reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events and also strengthens resilience and coping mechanism.
“They will facilitate the stabilisation of emotionally overwhelmed individuals; also, they will equip victims or survivors with information about stress, grief and other related issues.
“Beyond this, they will identify immediate psychological needs and connect these people with relevant agencies as seamlessly as possible.
“More frightening about the collapsed building is the potential psychological impact that this incident can have on all the surviving children, their families, as well as the families of the deceased children.”
The expert said that trauma management goes beyond rescuing people from physical danger and treating their medical wounds.
“The psychological sequelae of disasters may be extensive, intensive, and long-lasting.
“In fact, victims and survivors of traumatic experiences are at risk of developing major mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, acute stress reaction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidality.
“As a matter of urgency, we need to start offering PFA to these victims, that is, the children (victims) and their family members.
“People may not necessarily develop severe mental health challenges after trauma, but they will benefit from PFA and see their adaptive skills thrive better.
“This is obviously a missing component in our emergency services delivery nationwide; we have to look into this area as soon as possible, “ she said. (NAN)


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