IN SCHOOLS and public halls in Sangli town and Miraj, where temporary shelters have replaced benches and chairs for the flood-affected families, armed with a projector, screen and two technicians, 20 psychiatrists are a busy lot these days. Their task at hand: Conduct trauma counselling sessions with the help of powerpoint presentations.
On Monday, when the floodwater in Sangli district started to recede, food and medical supplies were available in abundance. The only stress for thousands of families — the loss of their homes.
Insomnia and depression are the two common symptoms psychiatrists started noticing on Sunday when they began sessions. “The rescue teams told us that many were afraid of what they will do once they leave the rehabilitation camps. For them, everything has been destroyed. We thought preparing them for the future is necessary,” said Dr Ravindra Tate, the health officer in Sangli Municipal Corporation. For this purpose, 20 psychiatrists were roped in from Sangli-Miraj Psychiatric Association.
Since Sunday, starting 1 pm every day, a team of two doctors has been visiting a shelter home for half an hour. With the help of free projectors, screens and technicians — provided by a private supplier — a 15-minute PPT presentation is shown to the flood-affected people explaining different types of post-traumatic stress disorders. Slides filled with photographs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear blasts take the victims through the mayhem that Japan went through.
On Monday, at a school in Sangli town, Dr Govind Kulkarni met a woman who had visited her home only to find her six-month stock of rice, which she had secured on a tabletop, damaged in the flood. He counselled her, but initial signs of depression were seeping in.
In another school, a middle-aged man suffered from insomnia. The flashes of 2005 Sangli deluge kept coming back to him. “Most people are suffering from insomnia,” Kulkarni said.
In Miraj, psychiatrist Shucheeta Ghatke said the people she is meeting in the camps don’t realise they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “Once they return, and deal with multiple problems at home, within a few days, depression will take over,” she added.
While Sangli SP Suhail Sharma has started referring flood-affected victims — 56 relief camps have come up in Sangli and Miraj — to psychiatrists, the municipal corporation is pooling in medications from the government and other municipal corporations, though doctors are refraining from prescribing anti-psychiatric drugs at such an early stage.
There are also some who are counselling others even as they struggle to clear water from their hospitals and homes. Psychiatrist Dr Samir Gupte divided his time between clearing water at Gupte Nursing Home on Kolhapur road and holding counselling sessions at various camps.
On Monday, over 100 families were counselled in Miraj government school. “In a trauma situation, counsellors play a huge role. They help calm people down,” said Dr Daksha Shah, who is in Miraj with a team of 10 doctors from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
Among those counselled on Tuesday was a 40-year-old man, who lost his wife when a boat capsized in Bramhanal in Sangli’s periphery. Already a patient of depression, the death of his wife and loss of his home to the deluge, has relapsed him into severe depression.
“What is necessary is to follow up patients like him for weeks after they settle back. We are also trying to locate other families who lost their family members in the boat mishap,” Kulkarni said.