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Tsunami raises questions about disaster mental health, Science reports

appropriate work. The Danish Red Cross delivered hundreds of sewing machines to Muslim women in eastern Sri Lanka who'd lost their husbands in the tsunami. It's not exactly a clinical intervention, but it probably had a big effect on the women's mental health. These women were expected to stay inside their houses for a grieving period of four months. But since many of them lost other family members, too, they had no one to look after them. The sewing machines gave them something constructive to do with their time as well as a way to earn an income. The Red Cross checks in on them periodically to see how they're doing.

If this sort of therapy isn't relatively common in these cultures, how do tsunami survivors and other people who live in the zone respond when it's offered to them?

In the fishing village near Cuddalore I visited, I asked one of the women we visited what she thought of all of the psychosocial programs. One of the psychiatric social workers interpreted. She said sometimes she didn't know what to make of it. She'd gone to a group counseling session recently where everyone was talking about their experience in the tsunami and the troubles they've had since. "With all these people talking about their problems, how can it help?" she asked. The social worker explained that it was meant to help her realize that there were other people going through what she was, that she wasn't alone. She smiled and shrugged kind of non-committally. But she said she really appreciated that people were always coming by to check on her and ask how she was doing. I think that's probably indicative of how people are responding, at least in the areas I visited. They're not always sure what the psychosocial aid is all about, but they're grateful that people seem to care about their well-being and are trying to help.

Based on your reporting, what are the chief lessons to come out response to the tsunami by local and international mental health grou
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11-Aug-2005


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