THE LIGHT MILLENNIUM
EVERYTHING SHOULD BE UNDER THE SUN
t

Turkish Psychologists Association
& Earthquake

by Emre KONUK

 

Turkish Psychologists Association was first founded as Psychological Association on October 25, 1976. Its main body of coordination was in Ankara. Its name was changed to Turkish Psychologists Association on July 6, 1991.

The Association was assigned to be "Association Working for Public Welfare" in 1997 by the official legislative statement of The Commitee of Ministers.

The mission of Turkish Psychologists Association is to take reasonable steps to promote, facilitate and provide the improvement and functioning of pscyhology both as a branch of science and profession for the benefit of the community. It will also establish integrity, unity and cordiality among the professional psychologists.

The budget and incomes of the Association are developed through funds and annual membership fees as well as its publication of various periodicals.

This is a progress report on our projects related to the earthquake disaster. We appreciate and thank you for your ongoing interest in these projects.

The Picture: In August and November 1999 earthquakes, it is estimated that 25.000 people died. 65.000 houses collapsed and another 85.000 are in unlivable condition. This amounts to more than 750.000 homeless people. Of these, around 170.000 remained in the area living in prefabs. The rest moved to their villages and towns in Anatolia. As can be expected, there is too much demand for psychiatric and psychological help. In a screening we undertook in May 2000 (240 earthquake victims), around 70 % were diagnosed as having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The Projects: The Turkish Psychologists Association (TPA), Istanbul Chapter is running six closely linked projects regarding the earthquake disaster:

1. Providing Psychological Services

2. Training Mental Health Providers

3. Trauma Therapy Center in Istanbul

4. Trauma Library

5. Disaster Preparedness and Consultancy

6. Research

1-Providing Psychological Services

Until November 1999, TPA was giving psychological services at 30 ‘tent cities’ to people affected in the earthquake area. The service focused around acute stress and basic interventions in the early phases of trauma. The proffessionals at the sites gave information, feedback and suggestions to the volunteers working at the sites.

2-4 TPA volunteers went to the sites for 1-4 days before being relieved by another team. The teams worked on a volunteer basis.

By December 1999 TPA Ankara, Izmir and Bursa chapters ceased operating at the sites because these cities are far away from the sites and mainly because the professionals from there are mostly working for government, schools and universities. They could not leave their jobs on a volunteer basis. So we have decided to work at 3 counselling centers at strategic locations.

At this moment, TPA, Istanbul Chapter is operational in Izmit (at two prefab cities) and in Istanbul. Once a week, around 8 to 10 professionals go to the sites and give therapy to their clients. They also give training to the teachers working at the nurseries at the sites. A new program specifically designed for traumatized children will be launched within the ongoing process of our works.

In October, 2000 TPA, Istanbul Chapter, organized the clinical services and training the professional staff at Izmit Rehabilitation Center (IREM) which is sponsored by AÇEV (Mother Child Education Foundation), Project Hope, and WASHA Israel.

2. Training Mental Health Professionals

Training in Early Intervention for Trauma:

Right after the earthquake, through the joint efforts of TPA, private counselling centers, NGOs and the Israeli Government, teams from Israel were invited to give training to mental health providers and students of mental health professions. They got a one to four days of training about trauma, trauma related problems, acute stress disorders and basic interventions in the early phases of trauma.

TPA, Istanbul Chapter formed a ‘Trauma Training Team’ to revise and condense the basic training given by the Israeli teams to produce a one-day training. This and other programs together with Ankara Chapter was given to around 900 volunteers by the end of October, 1999.

Trauma Therapy Training:

Knowing that by six months most of the earthquake victims will be suffering from severe psychological problems, we have contacted EMDR Institute-HAP (Humanitarian Assistance Programs) USA. The EMDR approach (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is known to be working faster with trauma related problems in comparison with most other approaches. It is also learned in a shorter time by mental health professionals.

From October 1999 to June 2000, 100 professionals got their Level 1 and Level 2 EMDR trainings. Another 60 will get Level 2 training in February 2001. Up to now 40 trainers and facilitators from the USA, Europe and Israel came to Turkey and stayed avarage of 10 days for training and supervision. All trainings and most of sessions are videotaped and being used by new trainees.

3. Trauma Therapy Center In Istanbul

Through generous funds and donations, we have recently acquired a flat in Nisantasi, Istanbul. The place is going to be both our office and Trauma Center. Besides giving counselling services, it will play an important role in coordinating our efforts of alleviating the negative effects of disasters and providing training for the professionals who want to develop themselves and improve their skills.

The Trauma Center is conceived to be a place where research is a common practice and where new ideas and creativity will be extensive. We also intend to turn it into an internationally recognized center.

We hope that it will serve as a model for other Trauma Centers to be established in other parts of Turkey. It will also give us an opportunity to set up a Trauma Library which will be the core source of research and study for further developing our knowledge and remedial actions about trauma. Our collegues will find means to prepare themselves for the future potential disasters and connect to other sources of information through this Centre.

It seems that for extended periods of time, The Centre will not be able to charge for its services. So we will need funds for the restoration, interior decoration, staff, maintenance, daily operations, and trainings.

4.Travma Library

We started to set up a library which will maintain the materials such as books, periodicals and other sources systematically for our professionals collegues who are working or would like to work on trauma. Through the sponsors we provided abroad some publications have arrived in our Association.

5. Disaster Preparedness and Consultancy

After many revisions and modifications, the original training package developed by the ‘Trauma Training Team’ evolved into a ‘Disaster Preparedness and Intervention Program’. It was awarded at the 1st Istanbul Assembly of Children organised by the Istanbul Children Foundation as a ‘Project to be Supported’. The project aims to prepare the school system, business organisations, GOs and NGOs for disasters and traumatic events.

Many other professionals individually go to factories at the sites to work with the workers and their families, and others join the work of other NGO's operational at the sites or affected cities.

In addition we are working in collaboration with NGO's and schools who have taken over the responsibilites of hundreds of students affected by the earthquake. These children and adolescents live in Istanbul and go to the sites at weekends to join their families. We have developed with them programs so that professionals either train their staff or go routinely to the schools or dormitories and give psychological help.

6. Research

Both our practice and the pilot studies we have been doing at the sites indicate that we are on the right track. By January 2001 an efficiacy study of EMDR will begin both with adults and children. We hope that the results will show us if our approach requires modifications.

Emre KONUK

This issue is dedicated to contemporary Turkish artist Erol AKYAVA┼×.
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