All the evacuation centers in Iwate Prefecture closed at the end of August. Even here in Ohtsuchi, everyone has moved in to temporary or loaned accommodation. The Self Defence Forces and medical relief teams from various charities have left and it seems as if the town is settling back into normal, day to day life. Because of this, the disastrous effects of the earthquake and tsunami are much less apparent, and as the victims have moved into their news homes it has become more difficult to contact them. Perhaps this has something to do with the drop in coverage in the press.
I feel that it has become more difficult for members of the emotional and psychological care team to get access to those who need our help. Previously it was simply a case of visiting the evacuation center and talking with those who looked vulnerable and in need of our help. Now however, it’s not possible to go knocking from door to door. We actively go out and visit the homes of those in need of help when the local authorities relay the individual’s details to us, but the harsh reality is that it is difficult to successfully access those who cannot even ask for help.
Many relief agencies are currently focusing on a variety of approaches such as “Prevention of dying a solitary death in Temporary Housing”, “Supporting the Socially Vulnerable” etc. However, it is not just the socially vulnerable who are in need of emotional or psychological care. There are cases of people who do not have any social problems, are physically fit and healthy and so would not normally be seen as eligible for such support, but who suffering from anguish, having trouble sleeping, unable to ask for help and instead suffering alone.
Luckily, we are able to access and help in some way a number of these people thanks to information we receive from others in the local area. Some thank us for the medication they received which helps them sleep better, and have much healthier complexions than when we first met them. Others tell us how they have been able to begin to move slowly on with their lives thanks to regular counseling meetings where they had a chance to talk through their emotions. Nevertheless, there is without a doubt still a large number of people whom we have yet to meet who are unable to ask for help and try to cope by themselves because they believe there are others who need help more than them.
We want to help as many more people as possible. We want people to feel confident in contacting us, no matter how small they feel the stress they are under to be, which is why we will continue to tirelessly advertise and provide our assistance to those who need it. We believe that by doing so, new relationships can be formed.
Nao Namizuka （MDM）