PETALING JAYA: As heavy storm and floods rage on, mental health experts are anticipating a rise in anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
They say it will not only be among the displaced communities but from their families and public as well.
Mental health expert Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said there were already numerous cases received by the Malaysian Mental Health Association linked to floods.
“We have been getting about 500 calls a month and the numbers are increasing as a result of the floods,” said the association president yesterday.
He said continuous rain would cause fear and anxiety.
“Traditionally, we often see ourselves as a safe country but the unexpected floods in certain areas have caused trauma to the people,” he added.
Dr Mohanraj noted that the situation could exacerbate certain symptoms for those who were already battling depression and anxiety.
“This is reflected in the calls we are receiving,” he said.
“They express fear and worry about relapses.”
He said it was not unique to the victims but their families as well.
Dr Mohanraj expressed concern that this could be a prolonged situation.
“Once the flood situation recovers, victims who return to their homes could experience PTSD symptoms. This could last for between six months and a year,” he said.
Among the symptoms are distrust towards others, especially survivors and those who have lost loved ones.
“Some may experience memory loss and poor concentration. If not addressed properly, it may lead to reckless behaviours among adults and use of drugs to cope.
“In children, it could be of great impact on them when they grow up,” he said.
Counsellor Rohini Krishnan, 27, said more people had been getting mental health help since the floods occurred.
“There is increased anxiety in a lot of people. This situation can be addressed as seasonal depression or seasonal anxiety like that of people in countries that have winter.
“They feel more depressed and lonely during the cold weather.
“When people with this issue see dark clouds or when it is raining, they become worried, adding to their existing anxiety,” said Rohini, the founder of Meraky Counselling Services.
To reduce the chances of getting a panic attack, she advised them to set up support groups with family, friends and colleagues.
“Keep everyone in the loop every day,” she said.
Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Hazli Zakaria, who is also Malaysia Psychiatrist Association president, highlighted the importance of having proper assessment of victims’ needs, in terms of their psychological states.
“There must also be clear and specific plans by the relevant authorities to support victims, including short, mid and long-term planning,” he said.