PESHAWAR: Not only survivors of the Army Public School Peshawar massacre but students and parents elsewhere in the country, too, suffer psychological problems and therefore, they need short-term and long-term medical care along with social, moral and economic support to live normal life yet again, according to psychiatrists.

“These painful incidents cause depression, despair, anxiety and post-traumatic disorders, which are hard to go by. Therefore, we should pay proper attention to the handling of such situations,” Professor Syed Mohammad Sultan, head of psychiatry ward at the Khyber Teaching Hospital, told a workshop on Wednesday.

The one-day event was organised by the Health Promotion Society and Iftikhar Psychiatric Hospitals to provide tips to the parents of the APS terrorism victims, along with teachers and students of the city’s 25 schools to enable them to cope with the aftermath of the Dec 6 attack, which killed 150 people, mostly students.

Professor Sultan said the students required assistance desperately after the mayhem to enable them to continue education.

He said the focus should be on the creation of an environment through coordinated efforts in which they couldn’t remember the tragedy and move forward in future.

Before inviting speakers, host Professor Abaseen Yousafzai read couplets declaring the incident inhuman while emboldening students.

“We can effectively respond to the scourge of militancy through love,” he said.

Psychiatrist Professor Mian Iftikhar Hussain said terrorism was the illegitimate use or threat of violence to further political objectives.

“It (terrorism) targets innocent civilians and non-combatants through clandestine agents of the state and non-state actors in contravention of the laws of wars. It is aimed at hitting targets by creating psychological state of fear among them to influence decision-makers to change policy and system to their advantage,” he said.

Psychiatrist says we can respond to scourge of militancy through love

The psychiatrist said there was a need for pre-disaster planning, surveillance and preventive measures to respond effectively to terrorism and minimise losses.

“The healthcare institutions should have better emergency services, including ambulances and quick communication system, to extend timely first-aid to the victims of terrorism. “It is very important to maintain a proper medical record of victims so it could be used for further improvement in healthcare,” he said.

Professor Mian Iftikhar said those with the maximum exposure to traumatic events were primary survivors, while their close relatives came in purview of secondary survivors.

He added that medical care providers like doctors, nurses and paramedics fell in the third level of survivors.

The psychiatrist said such horrific incidents adversely affected other community members, journalists and others, who came across the reports on them.

He said it was important to record responses of survivors and identify the available facilities and categories the affected ones for short-term and long-term assistance on the basis of threat impact.

“The survivors need shelter and safety as part of efforts to manage mental health issues, which crop up after tragic events,” he said.

Professor Mian Iftikhar said both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions were needed to restore the capacity of terrorism survivors and re-organise them in the new world.

Dr Sameena, Dr Rabia Basri and Dr Mukhtiarul Haq also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn January 22nd , 2015

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