Dr. Maymunah Kadiri discloses that survivors and people affected by the incident may suffer from one emotional issue or the other.
Following the #EndSARS protests in some part of the country against extrajudicial killings, extortion, and torture, especially of young people by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, there have been cases of casualties ranging from gunshots to stab wounds and fractures among the protesters.
Dr. Kadiri popularly referred to as “THE CELEBRITY SHRINK,” is a multiple award-winning Neuro-Psychiatrist & Mental Health Advocate. She is the Medical Director and Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Pinnacle Medical Services, Lagos. She is also a certified Trauma Counsellor and Neurofeedback Practitioner.
Speaking in a recent interview with PUNCH HealthWise, the psychiatrist said some might be at risk of mental breakdown if they have a family history of mental issues, among other risk factors.
Kadiri said the immediate effect of the protests after things turned bloody is poor sleep or lack of sleep.
“This is very common among people that have experienced a traumatic event and if not properly managed, it can lead to insomnia or other psychological problems.
“People may also develop poor appetite, which is more likely among those who witnessed people die right in front of them during the protest, with the possibility of the bloodshed and other gory pictures imprinted in their minds.
“People may have a general sense of unwell, with symptoms such as stomach ache, headache, body ache, and the feeling that they are falling sick.
“There will also be features of panic attack such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, hyperventilation and dizziness,”
According to the expert, the short-term effects of the protest will be an anxiety disorder, depression, abuse of alcohol, and other substances.
“Anxiety is a normal emotion, but when it becomes more intense, it can affect the individual’s activities of daily living with symptoms such as excessive worry, feeling agitated, restlessness, sleep issues, fatigue, poor concentration and irrational fear, among others.
“Depression is also one of the short term-effects that can occur with symptoms such as low mood, sadness, low energy, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, poor sleep and poor appetite, among others.
“Abuse of alcohol and other substances usually occurs when traumatised people try to medicate themselves when going through pain. It could be survivors, their relatives, or families of those that have lost someone,”
Kadiri added that the long-term effect is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which usually occurs three, six months, or more after a traumatic event.
She said the symptoms to watch out for are nightmares, recurrent unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event, reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks), trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event, avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event, sleep issues, mood swings.
Highlighting the way forward, the psychiatrist recommends various strategies such as “deep diaphragmatic breathing, 4-7-8 technique, grounding exercise, and group psychological debriefing” for survivors.
See how to carry out the recommendations below
• Deep diagrammatic breathing (abdominal or belly breathing)
1. Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.
2. Relax your shoulders.
3. Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
4. Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
5. Purse your lips (as if you’re about to drink through a straw), press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
6. Repeat these steps several times for the best results.
• The 4-7-8 technique
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath. Repeat this until you feel better.
The “5-4-3-2-1” tool is a simple yet effective method for regaining control of your mind when anxiety threatens to take over – and it consists of more than counting backward from five. Rather, the hack helps bring us back to the present by relying on our five senses — sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
Start with conscious breathing. Breathe in for five seconds, hold the breath for five seconds, and breathe out for five seconds. Continue this pattern until you find your thoughts slowing down.
5. Acknowledge five things around you that you can see. However big or small, recognize five items you can see with your eyes.
4. Acknowledge four things around you that you can touch. Recognize four items you can feel with your hands or body.
3. Acknowledge three things around you that you can hear. Name three things that are audible to you.
2. Acknowledge two things around you that you can smell. Whatever it may be, take in the smells around you.
1. Acknowledge one thing that you can taste. It might be the aftertaste of coffee, gum, or your last meal. Or take a sip of water or grab a snack if it is handy. You can also take an additional deep breath when done.
“At the end of the exercise, celebrate your success. Recognise you were able to ground yourself and prevent the anxiety spiral, which will help you remember that coping with anxiety is possible and that you have successfully completed this exercise.
“The next time you feel anxiety returning, remind yourself of previous success.
• Group psychological debriefing
This is for survivors, relatives of the fallen heroes, people present on-site, those that watched the live stream, and those affected by the news, she said; adding, “anyone who has an already existing mental health issue should reach out to his/her doctor and/or therapist immediately.”