Following the ferry sinking which claimed the lives of 11 school children in Loeuk Dek district of Kandal province, psychologists have asked that relevant institutions provide counselling to the survivors, fearing the event may have traumatised them.
Yim Sotheary, director of the Sneha Centre, said that the event would have long lasting effects on the survivors and their families. They may experience insomnia, anxiety and nightmares, all of which are normal reactions to these kinds of events, so specialists should be on hand to assist them with their mental health.
“Consultations with mental health experts should be arranged as soon as possible, so they can express their emotions and understand them. If they are treated at an early stage, their trauma may be minimised,” she added.
She said that if symptoms persist for six or seven weeks, the children may develop serious mental illnesses.
“I ask that the government and civil society organisations provide assistance as soon as possible. The right thing to do is provide individual or group counselling for the survivors and family members,” Sotheary added.
Meas Sa Im, deputy head of ADHOC's Women's and Children's Rights Section, said that the incident will affect the feelings of the children because experienced it so recently, and were close to the dead.
“For the immediate time being, they will see pictures of the disaster in their heads. We know that some media outlets attempted to talk to them about what happened. The correct thing to do would be to leave them alone, and not have them replay it over and over – the victims’ interests should be above the desire of media companies to attract ratings, or views,” she said.
She said children would remain in shock for some time, and the memories were likely to remain with them into adulthood.
“Immediately after the incident, the victims should be provided with support. Parents should closely monitor their children’s emotions,” she said, adding that the authorities and NGOs should provide financial and mental health support to the victims and their families. Swimming lessons should also be offered widely.