When words fail us

 作者:商霸讧     |      日期:2019-03-02 04:12:02
By Laura Spinney AFTER a tsunami struck the rim countries of the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004, hundreds of western aid organisations flocked to the region to help. As well as providing practical and financial support, many focused on the disaster’s psychological toll. In Sri Lanka, the job of liaising with the foreign counsellors fell to Athula Sumathipala, psychiatrist and director of the Forum for Research and Development in New Town. Things didn’t always go smoothly. For a start, many of the foreigners spoke neither the local languages nor English. Some advocated a controversial form of therapy called eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), which involves asking the patient to focus on the therapist’s moving finger as they recall the unpleasant memories. The evidence for the efficacy of EMDR is debated, and while Sumathipala was not opposed to its use in principle, he drew the line when some of the therapists argued that Sri Lankan cricket umpires should be recruited because they were experienced at wagging their fingers. Some of the outsiders argued for compulsory counselling. “Most had no knowledge of Sri Lankan culture,” says Sumathipala. These days few can be unaware that people who undergo highly stressful experiences risk long-term mental trauma, in particular post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After disasters ranging from a school shooting to a terrorist attack, ranks of counsellors rush in to mitigate the psychological fallout. A small number of doctors are starting to question this orthodoxy,