Dr M Machinga Mental HealthWe all know that in Zimbabwe, vehicle population has been increasing annually from 2009 to date due to the dollarisation of the economy which made it easy for individuals to acquire second hand vehicles mainly from Japan. Such an increase in vehicle population has not been followed by road expansion resulting in congestion in urban areas and minor accidents.
Fatal accidents have been confined to highways. Another sad thing is the increasingly dangerous driving that our drivers are now fraught with, lack of the rule of law, too many drivers who have become so rude, carefree and careless on roads. The results of this have been the loss of lives on our roads, disability and suffering of families.
Some people have been injured physically while others have been emotionally impacted because of accidents. While much focus has been placed on physical injuries and it’s okay, this article focuses on the emotional side of road traffic accident. This is because, generally the emotional side of road traffic accidents has not received as much attention and coverage and yet many times people suffer emotionally after an accident.
Apart from the physical injury and disability, psychological and emotional difficulties after a road traffic accident have adversely affected individuals’ quality of life. Fear of travelling in vehicles, post-trauma reactions, protracted feelings of guilt, survivor guilt and depression are all frequent experiences that people encounter. For some people these overwhelming feelings go away over time.
But, for others, these feelings do not go away, instead they become stronger and begin to interfere with individuals’ day to day living. These feeling if not attended to, can change the way someone feels, act and relate to others around them.
If you do not attend to these disturbing feeling, you may develop serious psychological problems such as Post- traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD). PTSD can be quite devastating to people’s lives. Some signs of PTSD are that individuals may re-experience the traumatic accidents through thoughts, and distressing dreams about the accident. One can also encounter sleep disturbances while some engage in substance abuse. Others may be reluctant to drive and feeling detached from others.
Moving on after RTA
Research studies have shown that people’s responses to road traffic accident are slightly different and unique, however, there are general patterns that people tend to follow. Some people who have survived road traffic accidents may want to avoid thinking about what has happened some may want to share their experiences.
It has been found that talking about what has happened with a professional mental health person may make a huge positive difference. Survivors need to be helped to talk about how they felt, how they feel, and what the accident has meant for them. Psychotherapy session help survivors process their emotions and feelings in a safe place.
A professional counselor or psychotherapist provide information about trauma and how it affects the brain functioning. They also help the survivor with positive coping strategies that work for them to feel better. Professional counseling helps survivors to explore positive ways to help them move forward.
Dr Mazvita Machinga Ph.D is a trained psychotherapist based in Mutare. For help in professional counseling and psychotherapy, contact her at [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> or call 0778 83 8410 or 0771754 519.