Six weeks later, Indonesian Kanjuruhan Stadium tragedy survivors and families face lingering trauma

Not forgotten: One of Arema fans, Yohanes Prasetyo who survived the stampede said that the stampede has affected him emotionally. He easily gets angry over small things. - Jakarta Post/ANN

JAKARTA, Nov 12 (Jakarta Post/ANN): Families, friends and survivors are still experiencing psychological trauma from losing their loved ones and witnessing people suffer from tear gas.

It’s been a month since the horrific stampede at Malang’s Kanjuruhan Stadium, Malang, East Java, which caused at least 135 deaths.

Daniel Alexander Siagian, a 24-year-old executive director at the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) has been working with individuals who were at the stadium and are now suffering from the trauma of being there.

“Many survivors have experienced various traumas, from feeling paranoid in crowded areas, being triggered when seeing a policeman or even being scared from seeing people wearing a soccer shirt,” Daniel said.

Emotional effect

Yohanes Prasetyo, an avid fan of Arema, Malang’s soccer club, currently works as an operator at a plastic-blow molding machine store. The 25-year-old said that his emotional state fluctuated unpredictably. Yohanes was at the scene when the stampede took place and he witnessed tear gas being sprayed toward an audience where mothers, young children and teenagers were seated at the stadium.

“I would say I could easily get mad these days. If I hear the word ‘Kanjuruhan’, I become devastated and frustrated,” Yohanes said. A video of Yohanes being beaten by someone who appeared to be a police officer, which spread on social media. Yohanes was hit at the back of his head and suffered a minor injury.

“If there is anything I have to say, sometimes, I really want to take revenge on the policeman who hit me from the back,” Yohanes said.

Gilang Adam Lionil Krisnanda, a 12-year-old high school student, said that he was traumatized and now scared of crowds. He said he did not know when he would be able to go back to watching live soccer matches.

Gilang received four stitches on his temple and several injuries, including his eyes, due to tear gas, and a scratch on his left leg while running during the stampede.

“I will not go to another soccer match after witnessing the stampede. It makes you feel unsafe,” Gilang said, the oldest child of two siblings. He now feels afraid when seeing a big crowd of people.

Gilang’s father, Kristiyanto, said his son was still working on his psychological well-being. For the first few weeks after the event, Gilang was often delirious during his sleep, singing the Arema club anthem.

Trauma is not only experienced by the individuals at the scene and their close ones. Novi Setyaningsih said she felt terror when encountering Arema’s logo or soccer-related posts on social media. Novi lost her twin sister, Nova Setia Rahayu, at the event. Nova’s two children, 4 and 7 years of age, remain unaware that their mother has passed.

“I often start shaking whenever I have to pass the stadium,” Novi said.

“I’m trying to [get on with] my life, with my work at our family’s convenience store and doing what we can to support [Nova’s children],” Novi added.

Yohanes shares a similar point of view, saying that daily activities have helped him cope with the tragedy. “Going to a park with my daughter and wife helps calm my emotional state a bit,” Yohanes said.

Support needed

Kokoh D. Putera is a psychologist who has been actively helping Kanjuruhan’s surviving victims and victims’ families deal with their trauma. He suggested that the victims’ families and the survivors perform deep breathing exercises that improve the individual’s mind-body connection by bringing awareness to the usually unconscious act of breathing.

Moreover, Kokoh suggested that the victims’ families and survivors need regular checkups with psychologists, at least until next year – as traumatizing experiences can be different between individuals of different ages and educational backgrounds.

Kokoh shared that individuals from a lower socio-economic background tend to ignore mental health issues, as they feel judged by those around them.

Kokoh further explained that when individuals find it hard to communicate with others, it could eventually affect each of their personal and professional relationships.

“It needs to be a collective effort because there are individuals who are unaware of the mental issues they encounter,” Kokoh said. He also added that it’s vital for families and friends to accompany their close ones to give support – perhaps by helping them find a support group. He concluded that most victims were in denial about the event, while younger children had hallucinations.

“Why is it important? Because you never know how the traumatizing experience might affect the individuals. There is a mother in her fifties who acts as if everything is fine, but she wasn’t when I gave her a clinical [checkup],” Kokoh said.

“Another child hallucinates seeing a pocong [a Javanese ghost that is said to be the soul of a dead person trapped in their shroud]. This kind of event might hinder the child’s development process, as he might end up becoming forgetful, excluding himself from crowds,” Kokoh added.

Kokoh also suggested that it’s best for survivors to eventually take a break from social media, as looking at certain things might trigger memories of the tragedy. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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