The city of Christchurch, NZ has endured somewhere around 30 aftershocks since the Feb 22 2011 earthquake that devastated much of the city. With so much seismic activity occurring in one area, it is impossible to ignore the effects brought on by such events on the residents of Christchurch. A recent study found that people’s levels of ‘post-traumatic growth’ are higher depending on the amount of traumatic events they have experienced. Post-traumatic growth refers to a positive psychological change in a person or persons as a result of the struggle with a highly challenging life circumstance. These circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual and pose challenges to the individuals’ way of understanding the world around them and their place in it. Rebekah Smith, a student at University of Otago, studied post-traumatic growth among Canterbury residents and found 92 per cent of participants reported being stronger after the earthquakes. Some had said they changed their priorities in life because living through the earthquakes had made them understand what was really important to them. The study linked a higher number of traumatic events with higher levels of post-traumatic growth, perhaps suggesting the people of Christchurch have undergone a massive re-alignment of life values and priorities. Results seen in people that have experienced PT growth include: a greater appreciation of life, changed sense of priorities, warmer, more intimate relationships, greater sense of personal strength, and recognition of new possibilities or paths for one’s life and spiritual development.
While some residents experience this post traumatic growth, it has been reported that the children of Christchurch are still suffering high levels of anxiety even two years after the earthquakes. Researchers at the University of Canterbury are conducting a study into the effects of vitamins and minerals, using them to help treat psychological and psychiatric symptoms, such as stress, mood and ADHD. While some children remain anxious or worried about earthquakes in particular, others have shown signs of stress and anxiety in different facets of their lives such as, friendships, school performance, and overall happiness. Common symptoms of anxiety in children include sweating, feelings of choking or dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, being easily startled, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, headaches, stomach aches, body aches and tiredness as well as behavioural symptoms including clinginess, tantrums, withdrawing from friends and family, avoidance of places or objects, not wanting to go to school, shyness and perfectionism. Researcher Ellen Sole is searching out a small number of children who are willing to try the vitamins and minerals for two months in order to conduct the study. “Certainly Christchurch children have had to cope with much more than a lot of children do, so we would expect that some of these children will struggle,” she said.
- Earthquakes trigger ‘post-traumatic growth’ (stuff.co.nz)
- Posttraumatic Growth following a Relative’s Illness (drvitelli.typepad.com)
- Quake kids still stressed (nzherald.co.nz)
- Alcohol not crutch for quake victims (stuff.co.nz)
- Effects Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (casapalmera.com)