The past month has been extremely tough for Zamboanga City. Man-made and natural calamities have devastated the city in barely a month thereby afflicting massive damage to its people and properties. And among these grimly affected individuals were the faculty, administrative personnel and students of the University who survived the crises from the three-week conflict between the government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to the series of downpours that set parts of the city inundated.
With the leadership of WMSU President Dr. Milabel Enriquez-Ho, a series of Stress Debriefings for the faculty, administrative personnel and students that were directly or indirectly affected by the two catastrophes was conducted from September to October at the Western Mindanao State University.
On Day 1 of the Stress Debriefing, founder of the University of Santo Tomas Psychotrauma Clinic, Dr. Johnny B. Decatoria, conducted a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) for the Vice Presidents, Deans and Directors of the University. Furthermore, he oriented the WMSU officials and faculty members with psycho-trauma healing and the importance of stress debriefing protocols.
The participants of the activity, who were either hostage victims, whose houses were burned to the ground, or victims to the recent flooding, formed into groups and were facilitated by guidance counselors, psychologists and faculty members from CSWCD who were trained to do Psychological First Aid (PFA). Dr. Rufina A. Cruz, a registered Guidance Counselor and former Dean of the College of Social Sciences was the team leader of the group that did the PFA and stress debriefing.
According to Dr. Cruz, there are eight stages of the stress debriefing process. First, the introduction; second, the stating of the facts and events that transpired; third, the sharing of feelings and thoughts; fourth, stress response; fifth, the coping stage where the participants share their personal ways of managing their stress, and the learning stage where a facilitator educates the group members on the nature and symptoms of trauma; sixth, the learning stage; seventh, re-entry planning; and lastly, the closure.
Every participant took part in the sharing of experiences of the siege and the flooding in some parts of the city. Emotions filled the rooms of the MOOT Court as they personal experiences of the war and the flood. Most of them felt anger, insecurity, distrust, fear and disbelief over what they have been through.
Dr. Cruz further added that the main objective of the series of stress debriefings was for the participants to be able to cope positively, rather than to have maladaptive coping activities.
“When victims understand the nature and symptoms of trauma, they will tend to gain control over their unpleasant symptoms such as anxiety, depression or somatic reactions. Basic stress management is likewise emphasized to instigate the impact of trauma.” (PFA Manual) (AJ Dalugdug – PAO/WMSU)