Crisis Unveiled: Navigating Mental Health Challenges in the Aftermath of Disaster

In the wake of the destructive earthquake of magnitude 6.4 ML in Jajarkot and West Rukum on November 3, a silent crisis unfolded, leaving a lasting impact on mental health. Media monitoring over a month highlighted numerous articles emphasizing the severe psychological challenges faced by the affected population. The Kathmandu post reports indicate a 34 % increase in anxiety, a 20 % rise in alcohol use, and an 11 % increase in suicidal thoughts in the earthquake-affected areas of Jajarkot and west Rukum.

After a natural disaster, there’s often too much focus on fixing physical damage, leaving out the crucial impact on people’s mental well-being. It’s like facing two disasters, the first being the actual event, and the second, often overlooked, is the toll it takes on people’s minds. This second wave hits vulnerable groups the hardest, those who are poor, women, elderly, children, people with disabilities, and ethnic minorities. Sadly, mental health concerns in the aftermath tend to be ignored, even though they have a lasting impact. It’s vital to consider mental health alongside physical recovery for a more effective and holistic response to such emergencies.

Following the devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015, numerous studies were conducted in different parts of the affected areas to assess the impact of the disaster on the social and mental well-being of the local communities. In the study of Phulpingdanda village, Nepal after the 2015 earthquake, Of the 62 respondents interviewed, 3.23% and 4.84% displayed symptomatology of depression and PTSD. A large number of respondents interviewed scored high for resiliency (80.65%). All 62 respondents were displaced from their household and witnessed severe damage of both their homes and village (Jessica S. Schwind, 2018). Another study conducted after the 2015 earthquake insight that the negative impacts upon the social setup and mental health in Nepal, including higher suicide rates, physical abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), aggression among the males, and uncertainty. The absence of government support and assistance enhanced the overall psychosocial impact on the affected population. (Vineeta Thapa Ph.D., 2021). Another study from China highlights that sleep problems mediated the association between earthquake exposure and PTSD symptoms. Higher levels of earthquake exposure were associated with more severe sleep problems, which in turn was related with higher levels of PTSD symptoms. Adolescents with high trauma exposure had more sleep-related problems than those with low trauma exposure (Shuo Wang, 2021).

In conclusion, the media monitoring spanning a month following the devastating earthquake in Jajarkot and West Rukum has brought to light a silent crisis, the enduring impact on mental health. The reported increases in anxiety, alcohol use, and suicidal thoughts underscore the urgent need to prioritize psychological well-being alongside physical recovery efforts. Drawing on studies from the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, it is evident that the recovery process must extend beyond rebuilding structures to address the lasting mental health implications. The resilience and mental well-being of affected communities are integral components of a comprehensive disaster response, emphasizing the importance of integrating mental health considerations into emergency management strategies.

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