TODAY -
Psycho-social support for child victims of conflict necessary
Source: Hueiyen News Service / Thingnam Anjulika Samom

Imphal, August 09 2009: Post the 23rd July BT Road killing and the consequent Tehelka expos´┐Ż, the streets of Manipur are echoing with angry voices.

But amidst the entire din, there is the fear that one small silent voice might go unheard.

This voice is that of two-and-half year old Russel, who witnessed his mother Rabina being gunned down and lying in pool of blood afterwards.

According to family members, Russel sometimes prattles about the incident in his limited baby-language vocabulary.

In the initial days he showed signs of fear whenever people come in group near him or cry around him.

This has gradually reduced over the days.

But whenever they travel, around Iroishemba, he seems to recognize that they are traveling towards the heart of Imphal and he starts crying, saying, "Let's not go; Mama fell, (she) bleeds".

According to psychiatrist Dr RK Lenin, the avoidance and fear are symptomatic of the psychological impact of his mother's death etched on Russel's young mind.

While separation of child from parents in any kind of situation is traumatic for the child, the recent incident would be more sharply etched in his young mind as this was an extreme form of trauma.

Strong psycho-social support is necessary to help the child cope with the situation, he mooted.

The prolonged armed conflict situation in Manipur has produced many Russels -- thousands of children affected by the violence directly or indirectly through the mass media exposure.

However whether there has been any intervention for these children is the key question.

According to Dr RK Lenin, fear, uncertainty, nightmares, apprehension, insomnia, inattentiveness, under-confidence, non-inclination to play, refusal to eat, clinging to one person/guardian, brooding and depression are some of the conditions that usually develop in children exposed to such traumatic incidents.

Psychological and physiological assessment and intervention should be done as soon as possible to lighten the trauma.

The child should be encouraged to ventilate his/her feelings, and encouraged to participate in the funeral, shradh, etc to enable him to accept the reality.

This will help him/her normalize his/her childhood, he adds.

Pointing out that the rising acceptance of violence as part of their daily lives by the new generation who grew up in this conflict situation, he cautioned that such a 'normalization of the abnormal' will only lead to a slow and progressive deterioration in our moral values and a corroded society.

Family members, teachers and society/neighbours should strive together to create a supportive and enabling environment so as to ensure a normal emotional and psychological development and growth of the child affected by the conflict situation, Dr RK Lenin advises.

Otherwise there is the fear that in some cases, such kind of symptoms could blow up into full fledged chronic mental problems in the future, he cautioned.


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