Friday, 4 June 2010

Close-knit communities may cope better with tragedy

Close-knit is one of those glib expressions about communities that you have to hope is true of the Cumbrian villages and towns that Derrick Bird has despoiled with his obscene guns. They will need to be. (...)

Adrian Skinner, a Harrogate psychologist with special knowledge of disaster counselling, believes that the natural cohesion and fellow-feeling in small communities, left to heal themselves in their own time in their own ways, can be more effective than psychopathology. "Research into the effectiveness of debriefing," he says, "suggests that communities traditionally regarded as close-knit are more resilient than great amorphous cities. People share a history. Everyone knows everyone else and they look at practical ways to help one another."

After the Lockerbie disaster in 1988, an army of American psychologists bearing briefcases descended on the Scottish town where 270 died. They were not welcome. Locals retreated into themselves, as they did at Hungerford and were to do in Dunblane, for mutual comfort. Post-disaster counselling has a mixed track record, says Skinner. "Although it seems daft to say people should not have someone to talk to, all-round counselling is not appropriate for everyone. Only a percentage of people subjected to violence or natural disaster will suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome, and in others the symptom may actually be potentiated by counselling. (...)"

[From an article on the Cumbria shootings in today's edition of The Daily Telegraph.]

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