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I have not had news from family members since the earthquake in Haiti

Home > Psychosocial support > Earthquake in Haiti

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The earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010 was a dramatic and unusual event because it was sudden and unforeseen, and because of the extent of the casualties and losses it caused among the Haitian population. Being without news from family members or friends in such a situation can prove to be very difficult, because the need for information about what is happening is vital.

Waiting for information - which, because of the complexity of the situation, often comes only in bits and pieces - can be painful and cause major stress. The information we receive can be insufficient, vague or contradictory.

This situation can disrupt our daily lives, affecting our physical, psychological and emotional state, our behaviour, and relationships with those around us.

Reactions can vary from one person to another, and may change as the situation develops. Our thoughts can go from hope, believing that someone is still alive, to despair, imagining that he or she may be badly injured or even dead.

What might I experience when I have had no news from family or friends?

While everyone's experience is unique, many may react to the situation very strongly. Members of the same family may experience different reactions.

I may experience:

  • stress and anxiety
  • anger, irritability, aggressiveness, impatience
  • feelings of powerlessness, despair, depressive mood
  • worry, panic
  • feelings of guilt, pain
  • insomnia, fatigue, exhaustion
  • isolation
  • an increase in consumption of alcohol, drugs, or medication
  • difficulties in relationships with those around me (for example, conflicts, tension)
  • physical ailments (for example, headaches, breathing difficulties)
  • the discovery of new strengths
  • a new closeness with those around me
  • the creation of new relationships

The way that children react depends upon their age, and they will tend to imitate the reactions of those around them.

Reactions may also be influenced by our beliefs and values, as well as by the support from others that we rely on.

These reactions may last for a period of time. However, being aware of these reactions may be important in preventing them from getting worse as well as stopping the situation from deteriorating.

What are my strengths and my resources? What can I do?

Here are some questions that may help you to identify your strengths and your abilities:

  • Are there times when the situation seems to be less trying?
  • What can I do to make these moments happen more often?
  • What could I do to help myself feel a little better in the current situation?
  • Have I ever experienced a situation that caused me severe distress? How did I deal with that situation? What measures proved to be effective and positive? What can I put into practice in the current situation?
  • What do those around me see as my strengths? What strengths can I use in the current situation?
  • What community assistance services can I call upon?

"You are not alone in experiencing this situation; do not hesitate to ask for help."

A number of measures can help you deal with the situation and manage your stress.

For example:

  • Stay in contact with governmental representatives in order to follow developments in the search and rescue. Rely only on reliable sources.
  • Share what I am experiencing with trusted people around me.
  • Ask for and accept help from those around me.
  • Try to maintain my routine and keep active in my daily life (for example, at work, in your leisure activities).
  • Allow myself time to relax.
  • Limit my intake of information from the media, because exposure to too many images of the earthquake and its aftermath can affect my stress level.

If you notice that your reactions persist or are growing stronger over time despite measures you are taking to help you get through the situation, you may need to consult a professional.

Despite the difficulties disasters cause, they may also bring beneficial effects, such as a surge of solidarity between members of the community.

You are not alone in experiencing this situation; do not hesitate to ask for help.

Where can I get information?

Telephone

  • Services Québec toll-free line: 1 877 644-4545
  • Régie de l'assurance maladie: Montréal, 514 864-3411, elsewhere in Québec: 1 800 561-9749
  • Emergency Operations Centre, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada: 613 996-8885 (collect call), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Internet

Where can I get help?

Produced with the collaboration of

  • CSSS de Lac-Saint-Jean-Est
  • Mr. Pierre-Paul Malenfant, t.s., (psychosocial) Civil Security Counsellor (psychosocial), MSSS

References

  • AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION. DSM-IV-TR: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disor- ders (DSM), APA, Arlington, VA, USA, 2000, 992 pp.
  • BRILLON, Pascal. Se relever d'un traumatisme, réap- prendre à vivre et à faire confi ance, Éditions Quebecor, 2004.
  • BRYMERS, M., et al. Psychological First Aid: Field Ope- rations Guide, 2nd Edition, National Child Traumatic Stress Network et National Center for PTSD, 2006.
  • FROMBAUM, Pascal. Anxiété et dépression : compren- dre et soigner, Paris, Henri Veyrier, 1988, 165 pp.
  • GOUVERNEMENT DU QUÉBEC. Earthquake in Haiti, 2010, Québec. (Consulted January 23, 2010).
  • MALENFANT, Pierre-Paul. "Les réactions des personnes sinistrées: module 4", in L'intervention sociosanitaire en contexte de sécurité civile, Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, 2007. [Working document].
  • MALENFANT, Pierre-Paul. "Le processus d'adaptation: module 5", in L'intervention sociosanitaire en contexte de sécurité civile, Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, 2008. [Working document].
  • MALENFANT, Pierre-Paul. "La fonction intervention psychosociale: module 6", in L'intervention socio- sanitaire en contexte de sécurité civile, Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, 2008. [Working document].
  • MALTAIS, Danielle, and Marie-Andrée RHEAULT (eds.). L'intervention sociale en cas de catastrophe, Québec, Presses de l'Université du Québec, 2005, 392 pp.
  • MALTAIS, Danielle, Suzie ROBICHAUD and Anne SIMARD. Désastres et sinistrés, Chicoutimi, Éditions JCL, 2001, 408 pp.
  • MARTEL, Claude, and Alain BRUNET. "L'intervention psychosociale lors de sinistre", in Intervention en situation de crise et en contexte traumatique, Gaëtan Morin éditeur, 2006.

More

Different psychosocial information sheet about earthquake in Haiti are availlable:

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