S&T forum: Trauma associated with post-disaster events

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Director Renato Solidum, Jr. and other staff of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) attended a Science and Technology (S & T) Forum regarding "Trauma Associated with Post-Disaster Events" at the 2nd floor Conference Room, PHIVOLCS building on February 12, 2016.

Dr. Dale Dominey-Howes, Associate Professor in University of Sydney, discussed how researchers may suffer trauma from working in a traumatic or disaster-stricken environment. "Disasters don't happen in nature, disaster happens to us," he said.

·Although usually, researchers must be careful in asking participants or survivors to relive stressful events, and must protect their subjects during interview or field work, it is often neglected that a researcher might be vulnerable during the course of their work and suffer trauma as well. Researchers or those who work in disaster-stricken areas could experience Vicarious or Secondary Trauma that might be triggered by a previous traumatic experience, extended periods of exposure, lack of support networks, as well as age and gender.

Dominey-Howes said that despite expectations of being professional during work, it is normal [or human] to be overwhelmed by emotions specially while working in a place that was struck by disaster such as earthquake, tsunami, and volcanic eruption. He explained that working with emotions gives a researcher a chance improve his work by doing self-reflect , and quoted "reflection is a process of constant, self- conscious scrutiny of the self as researcher and of the research process" (England, 1994).

He also shared his experiences highlighting the two types of reflections: (1) a direct personal, where he experienced first-hand being overwhelmed by his emotions during a field work in Turkey and; (2) indirect professional, which he felt through a subordinate who worked extensively in Thailand.

He explained that it is important to acknowledge Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and conduct necessary activities to strengthen emotional and mental health.· Dominey-Howes also enumerated possible courses of action to be able to move forward such as counseling, having a time out or break from work, meditate, and relax.

After ending his presentation with the quotes, "We are all human and emotions affect us" and "Put aside logic, do what feels right", Director Solidum shared his experiences and acknowledged that putting aside personal feelings to be able to perform a task is important, but being overwhelmed by emotion is inevitable. Dominey-Howes said that it is good that PHIVOLCS conducts activities to relieve stress/trauma, and he thinks that PHIVOLCS is like a family that supports each other.