Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 arrive at a resort for relatives of the passengers, for a briefing in Cyberjaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on March 20, 2014.
PUTRAJAYA: Physical signs of stress are showing among many of the family members of the passengers and crew of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
According to Health Ministry psychiatric department head Dr Toh Chin Lee, quite a number of them suffered loss of appetite and sleep and were unable to focus on their routine.
“We had patients with breathing problems, the cause of which we later discovered was not respiratory issues but stress.
“One patient had to be sent to Putrajaya Hospital when she started hyperventilating, but luckily she had a full recovery the next day,” said Dr Toh.
Dr Toh is part of the team of psychiatrists, counsellors, nurses and paramedics stationed round-the-clock at The Everly Putrajaya hotel to help the family members through this difficult period.
Many psychiatrists in the team, including Dr Toh, have experience working in a crisis, the last such situation being the Lahad Datu intrusion last year.
Counsellors from agencies like the Public Service Department, Welfare Department and Counsellors Council are the “frontliners” who deal with family members for early intervention while the psychiatrists handle more serious cases that may require medication and professional treatment.
“Some patients just need psychiatric treatment by the doctors here, but others might also require medication, which we provide as and when necessary.
“Our advantage is that we arrived early to seek out the families, but the disadvantage at this point is that there are still uncertainties beyond anyone’s control,” he added.
The static clinic in the hotel has a solitary makeshift bed, next to a table with plastic cases of medication, which Dr Toh said was enough to treat basic emergency cases.
Any patient who requires further medical attention will be referred immediately to the Putrajaya, Serdang, Selayang, Klang or Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
Dr Toh said the psychiatrists and counsellors had arranged for “sharing sessions” among the families so they could open up more.
“It is good for the families to be staying together here as everyone here has a loved one on the flight. As they interact, they can become a mutual support group.
“However, it is also good for them to perhaps go back to their homes for support from their own extended family members and friends, as this will help them build strength to weather this tough time,” he added.
Counsellors dealing directly with the families said that many of them stayed in their rooms and only came out for meals and briefings.