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Disaster and Catastrophe - Veitch and Arkkelin's "Environmental Psychology"

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Disaster and Catastrophe According to Veitch and Arkkelin a disaster is something that has extreme negative consequences for those affected by it and is brought about as the result of the interaction of natural events and social systems. But catastrophe's are different to natural disasters in that they are the direct result of some kind of human activity, this may be by intention, such as bombings, or they may result from an error of judgement or miscalculation like radiation leaks. The characteristics of disaster and catastrophe's are quite different except for a few. Disasters are sudden, usually unpredictable and even with warning it does not specify when it will occur and what results will be, often uncontrollable, extremely powerful but often don't last very long. While on the other hand catastrophe's are artificially caused and not product of natural forces, they are not selective in where they might occur (in any geographical location), they vary in duration, they many have no obvious low point, so can not tell when the worst point is reached and when things are likely to start getting better, they may lack visible destruction; for example, radioactive contamination. There are a number of dynamic models used to look at the nature of human responses to disasters. From Tyhurst (1951) he produced the model of three overlapping stages of the human responses in disasters, these 3 sections are: Period of Impact, Period of recoil, Period of post-trauma, all containing different types of behaviour in the three situations. ...read more.


These questions require no answer but are asked in order to rationalise what has happened into some form of perspective. Affiliation occurs also in the Period of Recoil, in that during this period survivors cling to each other for support. Families are of crucial importance and the first choice in terms of providing support. Survivors even cling to strangers who were also involved in the event as they can relate. These groups form to help each other understand what has happened and why. Another form of behaviour within the Period of Recoil is Scapegoating, this is a time when people become angry at what has happened and, as a way of diffusing that anger try to find a scapegoat, this is someone to blame. Evidence from Rubinois and Bickman (1991) has shown that stress is lower when the survivor has someone else to blame. It is simply a way of projecting our anger, scapegoating can often lead to people not finding the real genuine answer, so like Osma Bin Laden was blamed instantly for 9/11, although at the time there was little evidence. After a disaster or catastrophe there are the after-effects that the disaster has on people. One such framework has been produced by Gleser et el (1981) it was produced after study on psychiatric patients all victims of the Buffalo Creek disaster of 1972, there are six elements to this but I will concentrate on two. ...read more.


Crawshaw (1963) reported that children sometimes take their cues on how to react from their parents, along with further studies finding that middle aged groups show more negative effects than the young or old. And gender has shown female's tend to be more affected than men and young girls, and Seroke et al (1986) found that adolescent girls reported more nightmares and fear of being alone than adolescent boys. First one being social support, this could be lost though if their families are lost as well. There is considerable evidence that strong social support can help people suffering from stress. Having to deal with a traumatic experience and then having nobody to turn to would increase the despair as nobody to discharge the emotions felt. In Tyhurts model we see how affiliation in the period of aftermath, as survivors who were all originally strangers now have something in common and can help each other overcome the trauma, as they have both been through the same thing. Only problem is the other person has also been through the same experience and may not be as effective as a family member who hasn't. Dealing with the grief, anger and depression is difficult but both individual and group counselling have proved effective and its important to start trying to deal with the problems after a disaster straight away rather than leaving it to linger on your mind. Survivors are taught methods of relaxation and taught to keep their minds off the event, also taught to talk about their problems with ease rather than keeping them stored up inside. ...read more.

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