HEALING TOGETHER. Surigao earthquake survivors received psychological first aid and psychosocial support from experts from Philippine Business for Social Progress, Psychological Association of the Philippines, and Xavier University Psychology Department. Supplied photo. 

Report by Rio Rosal Baliling

At 10:03PM on the 10th of February 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake had shaken Surigao del Norte and its nearby provinces in Northeastern Mindanao.

Due to the destructive intensity of the quake, a series of strong aftershocks occurred in the areas, affecting more than 16,000 people from 60 barangays.

With this, the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), in partnership with the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP), tapped Xavier University Psychology Department to take the lead in organizing a team of volunteer experts from Cagayan de Oro City who would be sent to Surigao del Norte to provide psychosocial support to the survivors who are in the “state of shock” after the disaster.

From March 3 to 6, 12 psychologists-psychometricians and the members of PAP from Bukidnon, Iligan City, CDO, and Butuan City stayed in Surigao del Norte to offer their expertise in the field of providing psychological first aid and psychosocial support.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (2015), psychological first aid “can help change people into active survivors rather than passive victims. Psychosocial support responds to the psychological and physical needs of the people concerned, by helping them to accept the situation and cope with it.”


GROUP SHARING. In an emergency response, providing psychosocial support is an essential part to help the survivors in healing the psychological wounds brought about by the disaster. Supplied photo. 

The participants completed a creative activity called "Color my Emotion" which allowed the facilitators to assess how the traumatic event affected the survivors' current state of emotion. This small group sharing activity also served as a springboard for the survivors to share their ideas on the disaster and release their psychological tension. It was then processed by the facilitators, highlighting their strengths, collective support, and the decision to move forward.

Selected participants underwent one-on-one counseling sessions with XU’s resident psychologists, while those survivors who needed further psychological intervention were referred to the Department of Health.

During the plenary session, XU faculty member and registered psychologist Jayme Leonen elaborated on possible coping strategies that the survivors could follow to process the effects of the trauma from the disaster. 

Participants were also taught how to do a "mindfulness exercise" to calm down the tension and anxiety. In an emergency response, providing psychosocial support is an essential part to help the survivors in healing the psychological wounds brought about by the disaster.

The PFA session culminated with a community ritual to foster social support, led by XU Psychology Department chairman Jason Manaois. Participants were asked to write positive messages and letters of encouragement to one another. They also held hands during a community singing to elicit a sense of companionship and support, carrying the message, “We are all together in this journey towards recovery.”∎


THE TEAM. The Philippine Business for Social Progress, in partnership with the Psychological Association of the Philippines, tapped Xavier University Psychology Department to take the lead in organizing a team of volunteer experts from Cagayan de Oro City who would be sent to Surigao del Norte to provide psychosocial support to the survivor. Supplied photo. 

 

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