Netherlands Red Cross Director Marieke van Schaik (right) visiting a Red Cross reconstruction project in St. Maarten.
PHILIPSBURG–People exposed to natural disasters are three times more likely to suffer from psychological complaints such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), said the Netherlands Red Cross, adding that less than a quarter of people receive the psychosocial help they need.
The Netherlands Red Cross said it wants to change this situation. “I have just returned from St. Maarten, where I spoke to people who were victims of Hurricane Irma – a traumatic experience. Every time it has a storm on the island, they are terrified again. If we offer psychosocial help to people in time, we can prevent them from still struggling with this two years later,” said Netherlands Red Cross Director Marieke van Schaik.
If people do not receive timely help, they are more likely to have serious psychological problems in the long-term, according to the Red Cross. In extreme cases, this can lead to suicide, said the Red Cross.
“Medical care, food, shelter and water are indispensable during a crisis. Every year aid organisations support millions of people with reconstruction and medical care, but mental well-being is, of course, also important.
“Far too little attention is paid to the psychosocial consequences of humanitarian crises. Eighty per cent of people who need mental help do not receive it. These are invisible wounds that have major consequences if we do not treat them,” said Van Schaik.
The Netherlands Red Cross, in collaboration with the Dutch Royal Tropical Institute KIT and non-governmental organisation Light for the World, has developed a board game about psychological first aid. By playing it, social workers can learn the basic skills of psychosocial support and apply them while helping people affected by a natural disaster, conflict or other crisis, said the Red Cross in a press release.
This game was publicly presented this week at a two-day conference in Amsterdam on mental healthcare and psychosocial support in emergency humanitarian aid and crisis situations.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Director Elhadj As Sy gave a speech at this conference about the importance of psychosocial assistance in conflict or disaster zones. Queen Máxima, Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau and Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Sigrid Kaag were also present at the conference.