Although the national mourning period for the Itaewon disaster ended on Saturday, many people are left traumatized by direct and indirect exposure to tragic scenes. Experts and mental health associations asked hospitals to prioritize the treatment of patients suffering from the disaster.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Sunday, the Korean Association of Psychiatric Practitioners recently sent a text message to its members saying, "We ask for prompt therapeutic intervention to those who are related to the Itaewon disaster," calling for quick reservation and treatments for the people suffering after the large-scale tragedy.
The association asked hospitals to prioritize reservations for those involved in the Itaewon disaster in their reservation systems. It also urged hospitals without a reservation system to provide one for patients to minimize their exposure and secure their privacy.
Though the measures in the message are not compulsory, it reflected psychiatric experts’ consensus that people related to the Itaewon disaster need expedited treatment.
As the disaster occurred involving a large crowd, it is not easy to set the scope of those who need counseling and treatment support. The KAPP defines people related to the Itaewon disaster as the bereaved families and acquaintances of the dead; injured victims; injured victims' families and acquaintances; and witnesses and journalists at the scene. Also included are rescue workers like firefighters, police officers, paramedics and medical personnel.
Chung Chan-seung, a chairman of the Korean Neuropsychiatric Association and chairman of the Korean Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, recommends a self-soothing emergency technique for those who are suffering from the Itaewon disaster.
The stabilization technique, a four-stage routine created by Disaster Mental Health Support Information Contents & Platform Development Research, helps people who are shocked or traumatized, and it is applicable to any traumatic situation. It consists of deep breathing, abdominal breathing, grounding technique and a butterfly hug.
“As many foreigners were involved in the Itaewon disaster, I prepared an explanation of the stabilization technique in both Korean and English. It will help people quickly stabilize themselves after a traumatic experience,” Chung said.