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HomeasiaItaewon Halloween crush, Gujarat bridge collapse put spotlight on mental health

Itaewon Halloween crush, Gujarat bridge collapse put spotlight on mental health

SINGAPORE: Recent tragedies, such as the crowd crush in South Korea and bridge collapse in India, have seen the issue of mental health take centre stage.

At least 155 people were killed in a crowd crush in the packed Itaewon nightlife district in Seoul, where revellers were celebrating Halloween. Meanwhile, some 132 people died in Gujarat when an overloaded pedestrian bridge collapsed into the river below.

There are concerns that the indiscriminate sharing of photos and videos could lead to a wider fallout on the mental well-being of the public.

Authorities have urged people to stop circulating the images. Experts, too, have noted that repeated viewings may have negative impacts, such as triggering survivor’s guilt, and urged netizens to avoid them as much as they can.

LASTING MENTAL IMPACT

In the aftermath of a tragedy, family members of victims, witnesses, survivors and first responders all experience post-traumatic stress symptoms in their emotional and mental states, said Dr Alison Holman, professor of psychological science at the University of California Irvine.

“Many will have those symptoms and they will go away within a short period of time. But for some others, those symptoms may last a little bit longer,” Dr Holman told CNA’s Asia First.

“When you see something ‘live’ happen like that, whether it’s ‘live’ in-person or ‘live’ via the media, that can be harmful because it’s very real and it reflects … our own mortality,” she said.

Dr Holman encouraged media firms to put up warnings before they show graphic videos or pictures, so that people are aware and can make a choice whether they want to look at it.

COMMUNITY EFFORT

In times of tragedy, it is also important for the community to come together to provide support for one another to heal from the shock, said Dr Holman.

“Taking steps to provide support for somebody else is not only good for them, but it’s good for you too. That kind of pro-social engagement that people have is really good for your mental health, (and) is good for your physical health,” she said.

“It’s also really good for building a community and having a sense of social responsibility for making sure that your country and your community can move on and find a way to heal.”

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