Following individuals and communities after emergencies shows recovery is a complex and poorly understood process full of challenges and adjustments. During this time there is risk of losing more than was affected by the event itself...
Some people who, in the first years, are active in rebuilding and involved in recovery found valued activities somehow got lost, including attachment to home, relationships with partners who are now ‘just good friends’, loss of closeness with children and family, deep hurt from the misunderstanding and judgement they received from friends and relatives or other community members. There is often a period of exhaustion after reconstruction that introduces an ‘identity crisis.’ They need to adjust to a changed sense of self, meaning and purpose in life that was never invited, but imposed by the emergency. It can result in the loss of the relationships, social life, activities, hobbies and interests, investment in career and the long-term life goals that are essential to the sense of self.
Many do recover well and gain meaning from the experience. They make creative changes and become clearer about what is important. However, the potential consequences involve life-changing events. The opportunity for creative adaptation (resilience) is key to recovering well. These aspects of recovery depend on quality rather than quantity; the ‘how’ rather than ‘what’ is done. The demand for government to spend more money and provide more services does not guarantee better recovery. It requires greater understanding of recovery, where early priorities are based on long-term realities and how community expectations can be enlisted. It requires knowledge, strategies and methods supported by policies and evidence.
Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Read the full Foreword in the January 2018 edition of AJEM