Disaster Volunteering and Efforts to Maintain Mental Health While on Duty — Incandescent Psychology #UnderstandingHuman

Disasters that occur, have an impact not only materially but also psychologically. Victims affected by disasters often experience psychological trauma and difficulty accessing logistical materials and information. Various efforts were made to restore the condition of the place affected by the disaster, including by sending volunteers. The aid that came was then distributed through volunteers who were in the affected places. Volunteers who come to disaster-affected places have various roles and often even have multiple roles such as distributing logistical assistance, as well as carrying out psychosocial handling. When they get to the place affected by the disaster, it is not impossible that volunteers also experience trauma during their duties.

Volunteering and Post-Assignment Trauma

Not all volunteers receive either psychological training or technical skills before leaving for disaster-affected places. Because of the urgency, with personal desire, there are volunteers who go to the disaster site even though they have no experience with previous disaster situations. There are also some volunteers who have been in disaster-affected areas and this clearly provides experiential benefits for him. However, for volunteers who have never been to a disaster-affected area or are coming for the first time, they must have a different reaction from those who have experienced. This reaction can be in the form of shock or difficulty in the process of adaptation to the environment affected by the disaster. Being a volunteer means having to follow the situation in the place affected by the disaster, including sleeping in a tent or access to proper sanitation.

Volunteers who go to disaster-affected places without preparation and prior experience have a higher likelihood of experiencing stress and even trauma. According to the data, as many as 24.2% of volunteers experienced trauma after their activities as volunteers. The trauma can include difficulty regulating emotions, difficulty in making decisions, problems in relationships with others, and loss of meaning and life expectancy. Some of this trauma arises because when in a place affected by a disaster, volunteers see the condition of victims and feel empathy that is too deep to affect their cognition process in dealing with problems around them.

Maintaining Mental Health in Volunteers

When we know the news of a disaster happening somewhere, the first response we feel is of course empathy and a desire to help. This assistance can be in the form of financial assistance or energy assistance such as by volunteering. However, volunteers are also ordinary people who can be affected by conditions at the disaster site, especially if they do not have qualified preparations. Volunteers need to maintain their mental health so that their volunteering activities do not backfire on them, instead of disrupting mental health conditions.

Join a Volunteer Organization

The desire to help or be involved in helping disaster survivors must be shared by many people. But keep in mind that the desire to volunteer must be followed by knowledge of volunteerism and disaster management. Knowledge and skills about volunteering can be obtained through independent training. This can be achieved by attending training held by an institution or by joining a volunteer organization. There are various kinds of volunteer organizations that can be joined if you really have the desire to volunteer. These organizations include Save the Children, a volunteer organization that focuses on children, including children affected by disasters. There are also region-based volunteer organizations such as the East Java Humanitarian Network and of course there are many other volunteer organizations or communities. Through volunteer organizations, we will get provisions about preparedness when in places affected by disasters.

Talk to Fellow Volunteers

Talking is one of the means to be able to maintain mental health. Whether it’s talking with seniors or with fellow volunteers when in a place affected by disasters. The conversation can be about problems that occurred at the scene of the disaster or about the emotional state while in the place of service.

Talking with fellow volunteers can also be used as a means to find information about how to survive when volunteering, or share experiences while volunteering. Talking about spilling complaints and feelings that are felt can also prevent problems that accumulate and interfere with mental health.

Understand Your Abilities

Not everyone has the ability to volunteer. Although, the willingness to help can be had by everyone. However, deciding to go volunteering to a disaster-affected place is not something that can be done without preparation. Understanding what capabilities can be done to help when in disaster-affected places is important. This is done so that our departure as volunteers becomes a help instead of harm, especially for ourselves. Because before helping others, we must first be able to take care of ourselves.

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