PH suffering from national trauma: expert

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Nov 18 2013 02:10 PM | Updated as of Nov 19 2013 08:37 AM

Support from other countries a big consolation for PH

MANILA - The magnitude of the disaster caused by super typhoon Yolanda has caused a kind of trauma on a national scale, an expert said.

Social scientist and trauma expert Honey Carandang said: “I can say we have national trauma because the magnitude is more than we could ever think of. It’s unimaginable. Because of that, everybody’s affected: those whose family members have died as well as the relief workers. Reporters are also vicariously traumatized. It’s what we call secondary trauma.”

Even people watching the scenes on television are traumatized, she told ANC.

“Trauma is a phenomenon we have to deal with…The reaction to trauma is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation,” she said. This is why the psychological factor is understandable after the physical needs of the survivors have been answered.

Trauma also cuts through classes, she said. “Anybody, no matter how well off, with this magnitude, you will be traumatized. It’s too much for the human system to contain.”

Understanding the trauma

“In such incidents, the body gets into hyper alert stage. It’s a normal reaction to an emergency, such as when you are able to lift a [heavy object] in times of danger. After the emergency, the body should already go back to normal,” she said.

With the magnitude of the disaster, however, she said the entire country is on red alert situation.

She said that for those in the disaster areas, “the images will go through your head whether you like it or not. They have their own life. You can’t go to sleep.”

She said these are “intrusions” that come in the form of “nightmares.”

Sometimes, trauma is stored in the body, she said. It will show its ugly head with just the slightest of reinforcement, she added.

“The other aspect is you become numb, paralyzed, immobile. You are just staring into space,” she said.


Carandang said the understanding of trauma leads to healing. She said it is only right to assure the survivors that “they will be safe.”

It is also important that “they tell their story in their own words."

"There’s also the survivor’s guilt…which is why it’s important to listen, support and not to judge.”

A certain “connection” is also paramount, she said. “The mother accompanies the child, the social workers [are there], the connection with other people.”


This connection is why the nation is standing on its feet, anchored on the support of other nations.

In the aftermath of Yolanda, international aid started to pour in. One after the other, groups and individuals lent their time and resources to help feed, assist and heal the survivors.

“Any kind of mobilization may not be enough for this kind of magnitude. As a nation, we’re supported and healed by at least 40 countries helping. It’s a big consolation for us,” she said.

She noted the healing is a long process. A year after, when the country commemorates incidents like this, people need to go back to support others and tell them they are not alone.

The feelings are triggered when the anniversary comes around, she said.