One in four nursery school children who faced the disastrous consequences of Japan’s 2011 tsunami has been traumatized and needs now psychiatric treatment, according to a government report released on Monday. Doctors say that if not treated, the psychiatric problems could last for the whole life.
Researchers found 25.9 percent of children aged between three and five suffer from symptoms including vertigo, nausea and headaches, with some exhibiting worrying behavior such as violence or withdrawal, the international press reports.
Children were afraid of losing their homes, friends, and parents or by the sight of the huge wall of water that crashed ashore, the study team said.
Professor Shigeo Kure of Tohoku University School of Medicine, the team’s leader, said that children’s problems could become much worse in life if they are not treated as soon as possible.
These could include developmental disorders and learning disabilities, and as adults “they may have trouble in communicating with other people due to the influence of experiences related to the disaster”, Kure said.
“I was surprised at the percentage of children who need medical care. I did not expect it would be this high,” Kure said.
“These children who were part of our study have received and will keep receiving psychiatric care in the coming years, but another issue is how to make contact with children whose need for psychiatric care has not yet been identified,” he said.
“I imagine there are lots of children, who seemingly are leading normal lives but show behavior that needs a doctor’s attention, for example, waking up suddenly at midnight or biting their nails.”
Makiko Okuyama of the National Center for Child Health and Development, who was also part of the study, was worried by the results.
“It is known that children need (psychiatric) care right after an earthquake disaster, but this study was done more than a year and half after the fact, so that concerns me,” she said.