Damage to houses, roads, property, of course. But also damage to people, sometimes less visible and more subtle than others. The flood, in addition to the billions of damages caused and the fifteen deaths already accounted for, can bring with it psychological repercussions that can last for a long time. To understand a little more, we talked to gabriela gallo, director of the Complex Operative Unit of Psychology of the AUSL of Bologna. In recent days, Dr. Gallo has become involved in organizing the operating machine that is psychologically helping people to overcome or limit the traumas associated with the flood.
How did the initiative to provide psychological support to the people who have suffered the most from the consequences of the flood come about?
Let’s say that by now we already know how to define a protocol, since we are in a continuous emergency. The organizational machinery starts from the Region with psychological support in the emergency phase throughout the Region, obviously starting from the most affected areas. In this case, he was referring especially to displaced people, those who have lost their property, those who have seen landslides or those who have experienced moments of fear and concern. The Region has designated local coordinators: for the Bologna Local Health Authority, for example, it has entrusted me with the task. We, through the directors of the regional psychology units, that is, those psychologist colleagues who are tasked with supervising each district in everything related to psychological needs, have collected the needs of people together with administrators. These needs have been channeled to an emergency table of the Bologna Local Health Authority that has been reactivated (it already existed due to the emergency of the Ukrainian people): here we coordinate all the interventions and decide what to do. This is the organization that we have given ourselves in Bologna, and it is an organization that is very close to the local authorities and the district directors. In fact, the provision of the latter is essential, not only for the provision of the service, but also to signal the need for specialized services, such as child psychiatry, for example, or perhaps if support is needed for local administrators. Let me give you an example: in Vado there are 280 displaced persons. The extraordinary thing is that there, every afternoon at 6:00 p.m., the mayor, the councilors and the district director meet with the citizens in a public assembly to debate. This is already a very reassuring operation for the citizens.
What was your task?
Together with the director of the Apennines regional psychology unit and two fellow volunteers from the Sipem association, we support the mayor and the other administrators in dealing with citizens, both to monitor the psychological needs of the people who show up in meetings as to help them communicate. It’s hard for admins to be able to tell people who’ve already tried that their homes aren’t usable yet or it’s still going to take a long time. Another example comes from San Lazzaro di Savena. There was the death of a 43-year-old boy and the director of the territorial nucleus informed us of the situation of this boy’s mother and sister. That is why we have networked with the local adult psychiatric service that is present in the district where this mother lives and is now taking care of her. This mother, in fact, was showing obvious signs of depression, and her plight was clear.
How many people did you take care of?
We connect mainly with the centers. In Molinella, for example, there were about two hundred people, in Budrio about 35, in Vado 280. Luckily the great criticism has not affected our area, naturally the situation in Romagna is worse. Here the administrators have done everything possible to get people back to their homes as quickly as possible.
How did your speech unfold?
Our help was collective. When working in an emergency, assistance is first provided to the group, for example in the hubs, to normalize and redirect people’s health. We must not immediately pathologize the moment. Therefore, they are not unique interventions. So it is clear, if some people need it, unique interventions can be done: the goal is always to stabilize their emotional area. For example, it happened at the Budrio hub: there was a teenager who had episodes of anxiety. Here our colleague made an individual intervention and we are currently monitoring it thanks to the presence of local services. Her presence is very important: it is one thing to work in an emergency and another to meet specific needs that must be met by local services.
In general, what can be the tips to deal with this type of trauma?
Emergency psychologists often also have outreach materials and may present them to schools in the most affected areas. I am thinking, for example, of Ford. There, at the moment, we have several problems: we keep track of the meetings that take place every night, we keep track of the users who are already in charge of both child and adult neuropsychiatry, and finally, we would like to organize meetings in schools to help people manage the emotional reactions that physiologically can come out of this type of situation. Not only for students, but also for teachers and parents. This way we can help people who in turn have to manage other groups of people. What concerns us now, but which we will see shortly, is to see if there are post-traumatic stress reactions. Symptoms usually emerge after about thirty days, but we are already monitoring to intervene, where necessary, with cognitive-behavioral techniques to manage this type of trauma.
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