Saturday, July 23, 2011

Psychosocial Support in the aftermath of the Oslo Bombings
Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz[1], PhD

I was astounded and saddened with the news of the bombing and shooting incident in a campground in Oslo yesterday. Our sincere and deepest condolences, to all the citizens of Norway.

Terrorism, whether from the right or the left, as a way to shake world order, seems to be on the increase.  The message to the world was “loud and clear” – terrorist will attack soft targets, to make themselves heard. The question for the world to ponder is what are the appropriate actions to reduce violence against the vulnerable civilian populace. Certainly peaceful actions will lead in-kind to peaceful results.

At prima-facia the bombing and shooting will certainly have an effect on the affected population, and on the Norwegian nation as a whole. The affected people are (1) the family and friends of those that lost their life or were injured, and (2) those that are watching the drama unfold on TV or through other media sources, without enough information wondering about their safety and well being.  

Three common reactions that will emerge are

  •  Hatred, prejudices, animosity and distrust may increase due to person-blame behaviors.
  • Some will unable to yet comprehend the tragedy that had struck them and will be numb and silent. Certain incidents might trigger off hidden fears and expressions of violent behavior.
  • As the survivors return to their places many will feel psychological safety. A small group will feel uncertain and hopeless about their future. They will begin looking for a new place that they perceive as ‘safe".   

Psychosocial strategies:

As the first responders and mental health professionals approach the event-affected people. There are three needs that they may have. (1) Develop faith and trust. (2) An understanding that while most of the youth may recover, in the next few days, much stronger and more resilient. Others may not recover as quickly and will need grief counseling, and/or consultation with mental health professionals. (3) Potential short term response may include psycho-education, adequate and timely information, active participation in grieving rites, and an opportunity to share their feelings will lead to a feeling of comfort, well being, and an emerged hope for a safer future.

[1] Dr. Prewitt Diaz is a humanitarian Psychologist who serves as a Visiting Professor and Director of the Disaster Law Center, School of Law, University of Puerto Rico. Her served with the American Red Cross as a Disaster Mental Health officer during the Oklahoma City Bombing and the 9/11 response in Somerset, PA.  He was the recipient of the APA International Humanitarian Award in 2008.

1 comment:

  1. What a tragedy! Thanks for this timely and educational post.