Post-terror attack support network ropes in hospitals, polyclinics

PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
SECOND MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS JOSEPHINE TEOPHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Hospitals and polyclinics will pool resources, as well as share knowledge and expertise, to provide psychological aid in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, as part of the new Human Emergency Assistance and Response Teams (Heart) Network.

The medical institutions will collaborate with existing Heart teams, which consist of mental health professionals from the Home Team, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Institute of Mental Health.

This was announced by Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo at the opening of the fourth Asian Conference of Criminal and Operations Psychology yesterday morning.

Organised by the Home Team Psychological Services at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the four-day conference being held at the ParkRoyal hotel in Beach Road will explore how behavioural sciences can be used to tackle evolving threats, including cybercrime and terrorism.

It ends tomorrow.

Emphasising the importance of preparing the community for psychological recovery after a terrorist attack, Mrs Teo, who is also Manpower Minister, noted that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka in April, local psychologists found many people suffering from anxiety and despair about rebuilding their lives.

"If and when an attack happens, the loss of lives and property will be shocking. But it is the loss of hope and faith that's truly disastrous," she said.

 
 

"Our takeaway from these observations is that it isn't enough to have just the capabilities to end an attack. It is crucial to also prepare the community for psychological recovery following a terror attack."

Dr Majeed Khader, chief psychologist for the MHA, said the Heart Network will also help in ensuring that the Government's response after a major crisis is coordinated and smooth.

He added that unlike the current Heart teams, which have been operating since 2017 and act as an on-the-ground response unit to render psychological aid in the event of a terror attack, the new network will facilitate greater communication with medical institutions, which may encounter patients coming in with psychological trauma.

Dr Ryoko Ohtaki, a psychologist at the National Centre of Neurology and Psychiatry in Japan, told reporters that the psychological support will play a huge part in helping patients get back on their feet.

"We need more support for their mental health, not only physical health. Mental health is also a part of well-being and it's very important in times of crisis," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2019, with the headline 'Post-terror attack support network ropes in hospitals, polyclinics'. Print Edition | Subscribe