Study: Most Ranau earthquake victims showed high level of trauma

Dr-Ferlis-Bahari-ranauKOTA KINABALU: A high percentage of the 2015 Ranau earthquake victims experienced a high level of mental trauma, according to research by Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

The research, involving 89 victims aged 13 and above, was carried out by the Psychology and Health Research Unit of UMS, said the unit’s head Dr Ferlis Bahari.

The researcher said it was the first part of a series of research on the psychological impact of earthquakes, the first such research in Malaysia.

Dr Ferlis said the research, carried out two weeks after the magnitude-6 earthquake which took place on June 5, 2015, showed a high percentage of serious mental trauma and also dissociation among the research subjects.

Dissociation, Dr Ferlis explained, was a phenomenon where the sufferers’ thinking and behaviour did not reflect realities of life.

“The research was done in three villages in the district hit by the earthquake. Of the 89 people studied, 85.4% or 76 of them were recorded on the psychological tests as experiencing a high level of mental trauma. The remaining 14.6% or 13 people suffered a low level of trauma,” Dr Ferlis told FMT.

“On the test to measure dissociation, 83.1% or 74 of the 89 respondents suffered a high level of dissociation, while 16.9% or 15 persons showed a low level of dissociation.”

Dr Ferlis said among the symptoms of mental trauma or stress that the victims experienced were guilt, difficulty in bladder and bowel movement control, feeling ashamed of one’s own emotional reaction, passing out, frustration and anger, and difficulty in controlling emotion.

The victims also felt helpless, sad, experienced physical reactions such as trembling and fast heartbeats as well as fear about their safety and that of others.

Dr Ferlis said the symptoms of dissociation included losing awareness of things, feeling as if they were in danger when there was actually no danger, having difficulty in understanding what was happening, confusion over time and place, and feeling separate from one’s body.

“The government sent mental health teams to treat the victims’ after the disaster.” said Dr Ferlis.

“But we don’t know the current status of those found suffering trauma during our research. To find this out, we need to go up there (to the mountainous district) and collect more data.”

Eighteen people who were involved in Mount Kinabalu climbing activities were killed during the 30-second earthquake, which was reported to have been felt in many parts of Sabah and also in Labuan, Sarawak and Brunei.