Impact of Bereavement-Oriented Group Psychotherapy for School Mates of Air Crash Victims

Article excerpt

Abstract

Psychological debriefing is widely applied for victims who encounter overwhelming trauma. This study aimed at assessing the anxiety levels and psychiatric morbidity of class mates of the victims of a plane crash and also to carry out bereavement-oriented group psychotherapy to alleviate observed psychopathology in the study group.

Participants were assessed with Hamilton anxiety rating scale and the 12th version of the general health questionnaire before and after the application of one single bereavement-oriented group psychotherapy.

The pre-application of the Hamilton anxiety rating scale and general health questionnaire had significantly elevated scores as compared to the post psychotherapy scores.

Bereavement-oriented group psychotherapy was found to be effective in lowering psychopathology associated with bereavement and may further prevent post traumatic stress disorder.

Key words: Anxiety, bereavement-oriented, group therapy, air crash victims, Nigeria

Introduction

On December 11th 2005, a commercial plane that was carrying 150 passengers from Abuja to Port Harcourt burst into flames on landing at the Port Harcourt airport; most of almost all the passengers died apart from two people. Among the victims were 52 students from a secondary school in Abuja who were on vacation for the Christmas holiday. The incident was quite traumatic for the whole nation in particular, the school mates of the victims who were with them together at the airport one hour just before the accident. As part of the concern for the emotional well-being of the families and classmates of the victims, various governmental and nongovernmental bereavement counseling, debriefing and trauma management programmes took place in both Lagos and Port Harcourt where most of the families and friends of the victims reside. This study aimed at carrying out debriefing for the class mates of the victims. Debriefing however has been documented in the literature as a means of helping with initial distress and also for preventing post traumatic stress disorders in those who suffered from overwhelming trauma (Jenkins et al, 1997). For those who encounter overwhelming psychological trauma such as road traffic accidents, rape or plane crash, they were observed to also suffer from mild to moderate psychiatric morbidity (Hobbs et al, 1996; Bisson et al, 1994)). Post traumatic stress disorder was observed in individuals who encounter serious psychological trauma (Mayou et al, 2000). The scope of the plane crash tragedy was of such immense proportions that most parents of the class mates of the victims did not know how it might affect their children both on short and long term in terms of the development of psychopathology particularly as it affected a large number of students of impressionable ages. However, the concerned parents through the parent and teachers association (PTA) of the secondary school organized a psychotherapy session for the colleagues of the victims died in the crash before the resumption of academic school. This is a report of one of such psychotherapy programmes directed at the school mates of the victims who reside in Lagos. The therapy explores various aspects of the impact the trauma. It also attempted a descriptive and quantitative explanation of the impact and the psychopathological reactions of the participants of the group therapy. This short report therefore aimed at describing the outcome of the bereavementoriented psychotherapy sessions carried out for class mates of victims of the ill-fated plane crash.

Method

Participants' profile

Ninety participants who were secondary school students from a secondary school in Abuja, Nigeria took part in the study. Attendance at the group therapy ranged from junior secondary school one to senior secondary school three; thus all the six grades were represented in the group. They were classmates of victims of a plane crash. …