LIVES CHANGED FOREVER
Fortunately for most, these symptoms will be short-lived and tend not to develop into full-blown psychiatric disorders.
However, some of those who were exposed to the trauma may develop chronic mental illnesses, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that may be severely debilitating to their daily lives.
Patients with PTSD suffer from vivid re-experiencing of the traumatic event with symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories.
They will try to avoid being reminded of the traumatic event which may present as phobia of crowds or avoiding ever going to Itaewon again.
There may be persistent hyperarousal in them with symptoms like irritability, anger outbursts and insomnia. Some may also go on to develop survivor guilt, depression, and other anxiety disorders.
In the immediate aftermath, the most important aspect for helping individuals who have been exposed to such trauma would be practical support. This could be allowing them to rest from school or from work, helping them with their meals or providing them some simple sleeping aids.
While professional psychological debriefing has not been shown to be useful in preventing post-traumatic stress symptoms, allowing the individuals to speak of their experience, if they are ready to and want to, can help them to process their emotions and come to a closure.
Family and friends can help by reassuring them that the emotions they experience are to be expected. According to Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, “an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour”.
But should they experience symptoms that affect their social life or work or persist for more than one month, professional assessment and treatment will be needed.