The hand behind the catastrophe


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Disasters are not common events, but mark turning points in the life of communities. These are events that are always present on the calendar, which become part of the collective imagination and sometimes induce social changes. The Alvia accident is the most dire catastrophe in the recent history of the Galicians due to the number of victims and affected and the size it reached. Angrois will be eternally linked to this railway accidentLike Paramos, it will evoke the pyrotechnic explosion that took the lives of a married couple and damaged more than 350 homes, leaving about thirty of them -the ground zero- completely destroyed. These two moments forced to rethink regulations, ways of acting and also of helping. Because, they explain from the Official College of Psychologists of Galicia, “this accident was the starting point for the elaboration of the ‘Post-catastrophe Protocol’; provoked two fatalities, dozens injured and 30 families lost their homes, which generated a great need for psychological care. After the intervention in the emergency of the Group for Psychological Intervention in Catastrophes and Emergencies, a situation of lack of coordination was generated, which had as a consequence that the affected population itself mobilized demanding accessible psychological care.

From this care gap was born a document prepared by the experts, who emphasize the importance of adequate post-catastrophe therapy, both at a collective and individual level: «Appropriate psychological care after the critical event, without the delay in time that exists today, would allow to prevent psychopathological disorders that could worsen or become chronic by not providing a more immediate intervention ». The text, to which ABC has had access, states that it is necessary to articulate a new protocol that goes beyond the current one, which is prolonged only up to 72 hours later of which the fact occurs. Insufficient time to care for the victims, for which a division into three levels is proposed, starting with 1 in the case of those directly affected up to levels 5 or 6, which incorporate vulnerable people due to their proximity to the critical event and even relatives of health workers or firefighters who were able to participate in caring for the victims.

Thus, the document stipulates that the first step after the 72 hours in which the victims are in the hands of the Emergency Intervention Groups goes through a screening in which the inclusion (or not) of each person will be assessed, after referral to the mental health experts at the referral medical center. At this point, the creation of an interdisciplinary team is established that include a Clinical Psychologist, a Primary Care Physician, Pediatrics, Nursing and Social Work. “Approximately – notes the text – a clinical psychology professional will be established for every 100 affected.” From there, the experts advocate a brief psychological intervention (5-10 sessions), in cases of mild to moderate severity, and with a format that can be individual or group “Depending on the characteristics of the event”. When the psychological scenario is more serious, they bet on enabling a fast or preferential route to refer this person to their specialized mental health center of reference.

Once the initial evaluation (interview / psychometric tests) has been carried out, the objective of the protocol is to initiate an intervention “as quickly as possible” that should take place from the first week and always before the first month of the traumatic event. The writers of this disaster guide indicate that the purpose is to help restore the previous emotional balance “using techniques recommended in clinical practice guidelines”, most of which belong to the cognitive-behavioral approach (systematic desensitization, gradual exposure, relaxation training, breathing exercises). In addition, at this point and given the particularities of these events, they indicate the option of carrying out individual or group interventions. This new map, born as a result of a lack in the mental plane that the catastrophes themselves uncovered, insists on early attention, accessibility and not neglecting later moments in which an outstretched hand can be as fundamental as during the event itself .

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