December 08, 2008

Israeli doctors assist in trauma counselling

The time is now ripe to start the healing process in the city. Dr Rony Berger, who made this announcement, should know. As a director at

the Nadal Institute in Tel Aviv, Israel, he has travelled to some of the most dangerous places in the world, cities that have been plagued by natural disasters, war, terrorism, bomb blasts and other forms of violence. He has counselled families who suffered in the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks in New York City, people who were injured in the quakes that hit the Sichuan territory of China, to name a few.

"The first concern in all terror attacks is physical safety. Once people are safe, psychological concerns set in,'' said Berger, who has been brought in by the management of Jaslok Hospital, Pedder Road. "We have set up a trauma counselling cell to help victims and others affected by the terror attacks. It will be done free of cost,'' said Dr Maya Kriplani of Jaslok Hospital.

Over the next week, Berger and his colleague, Marc Gelkopf, will be talking to teachers and counsellors on ways to tackle the trauma. According to the Israelis, around 15% of the people who were directly or indirectly affected by the terror attacks will need help. "In this group too, most will bounce back with help from friends and family, but a few will need professional help,'' Berger said.

Indian counsellors have their methods to tackle trauma, clarified the psychologists. "But Israel has been tackling terror attacks, almost on a daily basis, since its formation in 1948,'' said Berger, underlining the reason for the Israeli mission. There also is a bit of organisational skill that goes into keeping many Israelis sane despite the daily bombardment. "At every municipality level, we distribute manuals on how to manage trauma.'' If counselling is not provided at the right time, the emotional baggage can lead to something serious, said the Nadal team.

But there is, in their opinion, a silver lining to the tragedy in Mumbai. "Most Asians manage trauma better than their Western counterparts because of the support system,'' says Berger.

From Tel Aviv

- Who are they? The doctors have come from the NADAL Institute in Tel behest of Jaslok Hospital

- Modus operandi: Besides advising patients to give vent to pent-up emotions, they recommend talking about the attacks and deep-breathing exercises to relax the muscles

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