Mental health concerns mount as Japan tsunami realities sink in

Via Reuters: Mental health concerns mount as Japan tsunami realities sink in. Excerpt:

Japanese tsunami survivors mourning lost loved ones and struggling to replace shattered homes and workplaces also face daunting mental health concerns, experts warn.

Three weeks after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami left more than 27,500 people dead or missing, shock and awe at sheer destruction can give way to despondency and depression as the gravity of the survivors' loss sets in.

"For a lot of people who up until this point have been able to ignore reality and what actually happened, as they get back on their feet they realise that, for instance, their house is gone, or their children are dead, and they're being forced to confront these facts," said volunteer doctor Toru Hosada.

"A lot of them are extremely uncertain as to what they can do," he said during rounds at a shelter in the shattered port city of Yamada in Iwate prefecture.

A tour of some 150 km (90 miles) of the devastated coast of northern Japan showed brisk efforts to house, feed and bathe thousands of people made homeless by the wave -- but worries that "kokoro no care" (mental health treatment) was coming too slowly.

"Many people cannot sleep well at night as they are afraid of earthquakes. They have lost many things so they are psychologically hurt," doctor Keiichiro Kubota told Reuters at a makeshift clinic in Kesennuma.

The difficulty of comforting survivors is compounded by the more than 350 aftershocks recorded since March 11.

"I am sleeping with my regular clothes on. I am always feeling an earthquake. Even when a car passes by, I think it's an earthquake," said Toshie Fukuda, 64, a survivor in Rikuzentakata, one of the cities hit hardest by the tsunami.

At the main disaster evacuee center in Rikuzentakata, a junior high school, the psychological counseling center is a curtained-off 4 square metre (36 sq ft) corner of a classroom.

"Do you suffer from headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea? Are you easily agitated and unable to sleep? Do you have no appetite, suffer nightmares about the disaster, or lack your normal energy? Are you irritated by the smallest sound, unable to stop crying and unable to relax?" reads a clinic poster.

"These feelings are not at all unusual -- they are the normal reaction of people who have received a severe shock," the poster said. "Talk to a specialist to lighten your burden."
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