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Tsunami in Kerala, India: Long-Term Psychological Distress, Sense of Coherence, Social Support, and Coping in a Non-Industrialized Setting

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Sophia von Lieres

This study assesses the long-term psychological consequences after the 2004 Asian tsunami in Kerala, India. Participants are the inhabitants of Kerala’s coastal regions. The results indicated that the participants who were affected by the tsunami showed significantly greater psychological distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than a control group. In addition, it could be shown that protective factors, such as perceived social support, certain coping strategies, and a sense of coherence, could decrease the level of symptoms. Perceived social support, in particular, decreased symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and a strong sense of coherence mitigated psychological distress. Avoidance coping was found to be more effective in decreasing levels of traumatic stress in this non-industrialized, collectivistic cultural setting.

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13 Appendix: Example of Efficient Disaster Relief Aid for Long- and Short-Term Rehabilitation

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To demonstrate an example of efficient immediate and long-term disaster relief aid, the response of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) to the tsunami in Alappad District, Kerala, is described. Immediately after the disaster struck Kerala’s coastline, the MAM evacuated an entire village to the mainland. The villagers were taken across the backwaters on skiffs or boats. As Alappad is a peninsula running parallel with the coast (the Arabian Sea to the west and the Kayamkulam backwaters to the east), all of Alappad remained submerged for several hours. All of the evacuees were accommodated at the MAM’s Amrita University, where the volunteers started cooking for 10,000 people. The MAM’s educational institutions accommodated 4,000 families. The MAM supplied all of its relief centers, as well as those of others, with round-the clock services, including food, water, clothes, sleeping mats, blankets, soap, tooth- brushes and toothpaste. All meals were provided to the families housed in the Amrita University campuses, as well as the many evacuees from other camps that had run out of food, including the police, the army and other disaster relief personnel. Seven fully equipped ambulances with medical staff from the Amri- ta Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), the MAM’s state-of-the-art charitable hospital in Cochin, made regular rounds of MAM and non-MAM relief centers in Kollam District, Kerala. Five more ambulances were sent to affected areas in Tamil Nadu (Mata Amritanandamayi Math, 2007). The day after the tragedy, the people staying in the relief camps were in a state...

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