January 1, 2020 marked the beginning of a brand-new decade that a lot of us looked at with optimism and as a chance at a new kick-off in life. Now, five months in, many are wondering if this year could get any worse and whether what’s passed so far could be a foreboding indicator of what’s yet to come.
A stretch of bad events kicked off the year that will leave a stain on the rest of the year, even if it is to improve. The latest in a series of unfortunate events is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has now brought entire countries to a standstill and has affected hundreds of thousands. We also saw wildfires that ravaged the Australian outback. The year also witnessed violence in our capital Delhi which left more than 50 dead and hundreds injured after a Hindu nationalist rampage. Other unfortunate events included the earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean, a locust swarm outbreak in East Africa, and the death of Kobe Bryant, a world-renowned basketball player as well eight others in a sobering helicopter crash. Our country also witnessed the Amphan Cyclone that caused widespread damage in Eastern India and some parts of Southern India as well.
The latest addition to these tragedies is the raging forest fires of Uttarakhand. According to a report by Jagran English, what started off as a forest fire which affected 5-6 hectares of forests in Pauri Garhwal district's Srinagar on 23rd May, has now gutted over 51 hectares of the forests across multiple districts of Uttarakhand, leading to the deaths of two citizens and burn injuries to another.
Although after three days of the initial forest fire reports, Uttarakhand officials have claimed that no such fires have occurred and have declared the news as fake, the trauma that it created in the minds of people is still very much real. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as "an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster."
There are various types of traumatic events, all known to lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One type of trauma results from natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornados or hurricanes, forest fires, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, or tsunamis. These types of experiences are particularly insidious because they tend to traumatize large populations of people all at once, and can result in Survivor Guilt and other PTSD symptoms.
Like many causes of trauma, natural disasters can be unexpected and overwhelming. The most immediate and typical reaction to a calamity is shock, which at first manifests as numbness or denial. Quickly—or eventually—shock can lead to an overemotional state that often includes high levels of anxiety, guilt or depression.
Additionally, victims do not need to have experienced the disaster firsthand in order to be psychologically affected. For example, someone living in Delhi with relatives in Uttarakhand at the time of the forest fires could have been subjected to countless hours of television coverage, coupled with an inability to get information about their own family. This type of situation can take an emotional impact on someone even from afar.
It is important to note that at a time already so full of uncertainty because of the Coronavirus pandemic, trauma caused by natural disasters can be even more debilitating. In general, survivors of natural disasters are recommended to seek professional guidance if they find themselves unable to regain control of their lives or if they continue to suffer from PTSD symptoms for more than a month. It's very important with natural disaster trauma that the victim gives himself time to heal and pass through an appropriate mourning process. Only by processing the experience over a realistic period of time is healing possible.
- Gupta, A. (2020). This is why the raging forest fires of Uttarakhand are the latest addition to 2020 horrors. Retrieved from here
- Nafie, M. (2020). Coronavirus, fires, crashes, locust swarms: Ten bad things that happened in 2020. Retrieved from here
- Babbel, S. (2010). The Trauma That Arises from Natural Disasters. Retrieved from here