A British Army mental health nurse is helping people suffering from the hidden wounds of the earthquake that struck Turkey, while looking after the medics caring for patients.
Working through an interpreter, Captain Richard is assessing and treating people struggling with their emotions and mood because of their experiences during and since the devastating earthquake hit.
“People here have lost everything – the house that they lived in is rubble, family members and friends may have been killed or seriously injured, and the infrastructure of everyday life is gone,” he said. “People have feelings of loss, grief, and fear that there might be further earthquakes, which causes stress and anxiety.
“To have mental health difficulties in these situations is perfectly natural and I’m trying to make people aware that it is normal, come up with a basic diagnosis of their issues, and deliver very early interventions to help. What’s most important is that I’m tied in with the local health service, so that people I see will continue to be supported.”
To have mental health difficulties in these situations is perfectly natural and I’m trying to make people aware that it is normal, come up with a basic diagnosis of their issues, and deliver very early interventions to help. Captain Richard
Captain Richard works at the Department for Community Mental Health at Colchester’s Merville Barracks, providing assessment and treatment for personnel from all three services with mental health needs.
“For the troops who’ve deployed to Turkey it’s been high tempo and very busy, so there’s the potential for stress and burnout,” he said. “There’s also the risk of secondary trauma when you’re dealing with casualties and hearing the horrible experiences that people have had, and you can start to take on those thoughts, feelings, and fears.
“My job is to support the soldiers and ensure that they’re in the right place to do their job. I’ve been doing awareness lessons, but also just getting around and talking to people, so that they know I’m available to help if needed.”
Troops returning from overseas operations receive a package of Post Operational Stress Management (POSM) to provide support as they return to normal duties.
16 Medical Regiment, supported by the RAF’s Tactical Medical Wing, has set up alongside Turkish and UK emergency medical teams at the site of a community hospital unable to open due to earthquake damage.
Staffed by more than 70 military clinicians, it provides a surgical capability with two intensive care beds, an emergency department, low dependency ward, and two GP-led primary healthcare teams.
The UK’s response to the earthquake is led by the FCDO, with the military contribution commanded by Joint Force Headquarters. A specialist team held at high readiness to provide expertise in operational delivery, logistics and communications arrived in Turkey three days after the earthquake to work with the British Embassy in Ankara.
Humanitarian aid, including tents and thousands of thermal blankets, has been delivered by the RAF. A Critical Care Air Support Team able to move critically ill patients by air has deployed in a C130 Hercules.