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Lebanon: The Collective Trauma Repercussions Between The Explosion And The Earthquake!

Photo credit: Reuters | by Issam abdallah

Two and half years have passed since people in Lebanon faced the Beirut explosion on August 4, 2020, a devastating event that shook Lebanon and the whole world.

The sheer magnitude of the blast, the loss of more than 200 lives, the destruction of buildings, and the emotional toll of the collective trauma have been felt far and wide.

The trauma has been felt in many ways. Those directly affected by the blast have experienced a range of emotional responses, including fear, shock, anger and grief. Those living in the region or connected to it in some way have had to grapple with the trauma of losing loved ones or friends.  

What is collective trauma?

The Psychological Specialist Fatima Shreim said, "When any sudden, unexpected, and uncontrollable event occurs that is unpleasant for members of a community, that leads to a collective shock, as the daily life of individuals, families and friends, is affected. Such as earthquakes, plane crashes, wars, terrorist attacks, and the first appearance of Covid-19."

The long-term effects of collective trauma:

● Physically, such increased heart rate and difficulty in breathing can occur. It can develop into more conditions such as headache, stomach ache and lack of appetite, and this is due to stress and the negative state that occurs.

● Psychologically, people may experience various emotions, including depression, anxiety, guilt and anger. The psychological impacts of collective trauma can be challenging to process and heal. According to what Shreim said.  

Shreim added, "When similar events occur, the same first effects come back to appear again and it can form psychological disorder ( post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD ) for some individuals, where they have feelings of intense fear, helplessness or terror, disturbing dreams, avoiding anything that reminds them of the incident."  

What did people feel during the earthquake?

Farah Ghanem, a trainer and mentor, said, "The recent earthquake has left me feeling shaken and unable to focus on work. I had a call with my coaches/friends, where I was able to express my feelings and work through the aftermath of the earthquake". She added, "It took me a few seconds to realize that this is an earthquake; the first thing that came to my mind is the explosion of August 4. The videos I'm seeing on social media are heart-aching; we can't hold them anymore. We have emotions that make us who we are and must allow ourselves to experience and embody these feelings".  

The writer and translator living in Beirut, Lina Mounzer, has tweeted commenting on what happened "Earthquake in Beirut strong enough to leap us out of bed as the entire building shook and swayed for a few minutes. Experiencing severe Beirut blast trauma/flashbacks." 

While the psychotherapist Yara Khawam wrote on her Instagram story, "My anxiety over the past two days has been over the moon. I can't keep my heart rate down; everything is a trigger; I've been feeling dizzy as if I'm living in a never-ending earthquake; I filled bottles with water and scattered them all over the house to see if I'm dizzy or the land is shaking. Social media has become a horrible place for me these past two days; I feel like I'm reliving August 4, living survivor's guilt, pain, all the things I lived during the explosion". 

Psychological recommendations:

The Psychological Specialist Fatima Shreim ended by mentioning a list of recommendations as listed below:

"- The most important is not believing any news we hear, making sure that the information is correct, due to the abundance of rumors and spreading fears.

- Relaxation and breathing exercises. Which helps relieve stress and negative and sad feelings.

- For emotionally affected people, not checking and looking at pictures of victims and destruction.

- Listening to soft music or watching a new series.

- If the individual was directly exposed to this event, that is, he felt it, then narrating these events and reporting about them reduces their psychological aggravation inside him because repression and not speaking affects later in an odd way.

- Gratitude to God for the blessing of health and supplication for protection. Praying scientifically and psychologically reduces negative tensions.

- Friction more with relatives to reduce the hostile atmosphere and avoid the individual being left alone for long hours.  

Important: If the solid psychological symptoms persist for a month or more with the emergence of panic attacks and anxiety or, as I mentioned previously, resorting to a psychotherapist for diagnosis."        

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