Experts expect rise in anxiety, PTSD due to floods in Malaysia

Among the symptoms is distrust towards others. This is especially so for survivors and those who have lost loved ones. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - As heavy storms and floods rage on, mental health experts are anticipating a rise in anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

They said these issues will be found not only among the displaced communities but also their families and members of the public.

Mental health expert Andrew Mohanraj said there were already numerous cases received by the Malaysian Mental Health Association linked to floods.

"We have been getting about 500 calls a month and the numbers are increasing as a result of the floods," said Dr Mohanraj, the association's president, yesterday.

He said continuous rain would cause fear and anxiety.

"Traditionally, we often see ourselves as a safe country but the unexpected floods in certain areas have caused trauma to the people," he said.

Dr Mohanraj noted that the situation could exacerbate certain symptoms for those who were already battling depression and anxiety.

"This is reflected in the calls we are receiving," he said. "They express fear and worry about relapses."

He said it was not unique to the victims but their families as well.

Dr Mohanraj expressed concern that this could be a prolonged situation.

"Once the flood situation (improves), victims who return to their homes could experience PTSD symptoms. This could last for between six months and a year," he said.

Among the symptoms is distrust towards others. This is especially so for survivors and those who have lost loved ones.

"Some may experience memory loss and poor concentration. If not addressed properly, it may lead to reckless behaviour among adults and the use of drugs to cope.

"In children, it could be of great impact when they grow up," he said.

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Counsellor Rohini Krishnan, 27, said more people had been getting mental health help since the floods occurred.

"There is increased anxiety in a lot of people. This situation can be addressed as seasonal depression or seasonal anxiety like that of people in countries that have winter.

"They feel more depressed and lonely during the cold weather.

"When people with this issue see dark clouds or when it is raining, they become worried, adding to their existing anxiety," said Ms Rohini, the founder of Meraky Counselling Services.

To reduce the chances of getting a panic attack, she advised them to set up support groups with family, friends and colleagues.

"Keep everyone in the loop every day," she said.

Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Hazli Zakaria, who is also president of the Malaysia Psychiatrist Association, highlighted the importance of having proper assessment of victims' needs in terms of their psychological state.

"There must also be clear and specific plans by the relevant authorities to support victims, including short-, mid- and long-term planning," he said.

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