The Chief Psychiatrist of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Akwasi O. Osei, has advised those traumatised as a result of the June 3 flood and fire disaster, to seek early counselling from clinical psychiatrists or pastors.
That, he said, would prevent the development of a post- traumatic stress disorder or lead to suicide.
Dr. Osei gave the advice in an interview with The Ghanaian Times, following complaints by eye-witnesses and some relatives of the deceased that they were having sleepless nights as a result of the trauma.
Some residents around Odawna, near the Pedestrian Mall and the Goil Filling Station, the scene of the horrific incident, as well as some of relatives of the dead, and some eye witnesses complained they could not sleep, as they recounted the harrowing experiences claiming that they could still hear sounds of people wailing in the blazing fire.
Others also said they could hardly eat or consume any meat, since the bizarre incident occurred.
Dr. Osei said such people needed counselling, noting that many of them would only require encouragement and advice to help them see the positive side of life and they would be fine.
Others, he said, would require more in-depth counselling, whereas some could require lay counselling by their pastors, and they would get out of the trauma.
“For others, they would still require professional counselling by mental health workers, particularly clinical psychologists, to prevent the development of post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.
That, he said, was a condition in which “survivors of such horrendous phenomenon tried to relive the moment, as they remember it, by having vivid images of the scenes in their minds.”
Normally, he said, they tended to lose sleep, looked confused and irritable, noting that, “if not well handled, they can go into depression and some can commit suicide”.
Some, Dr. Osei said, would actually require medication in addition to counselling to get them out of their predicament, since a survivor himself or herself, might not know the category of his or her condition.
He said it would be helpful for them to seek advice from any nearby health facility.
The Chief Psychiatrist said the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) would need to include mental health professionals like psychiatrists and psychologists in their team to help victims to overcome the effects of the disaster.
The torrential rain flooded parts of Accra, destroyed property and claimed more than 160 lives, with the worst hit area being a Goil filling station at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra, where scores of people, who were seeking shelter, were trapped in a blazing fire, killing them instantly, while some others were taken away by the floods.
By Francis Asamoah Tuffour