As Hong Kong mourns the 38 who died in a collision between two ships off one of the territory's islands, in which more than 100 people were also injured, Hong Kong Red Cross psychologists and trained volunteers have been providing emotional support to the shocked survivors and their colleagues.
The Hong Kong Red Cross, in partnership with other organisations, mobilised three clinical psychologists, five counsellors and ten experienced psychosocial ‘First Aiders’ to support staff of the Hong Kong Electric Company, which had chartered one of the two boats involved in the collision.
The vessel, which sank after being hit by a ferry, was carrying employees and their families to a firework display marking the traditional Mid-Autumn festival and China's National Day.
The organization’s Secretary General Mr K M Chan said: “The accident happened at night and in the middle of a long weekend. With the magnitude of the incident, many parties were involved in both rescue and assessing the needs for after care. While the injured and their families, as well as the families of the deceased, are attended by relevant government departments and hospitals, the Red Cross has focused our support in assisting the survivors and their colleagues. In a few hours, we have recruited voluntary clinical psychologists and psychological first aiders ready for operation.”
The psychosocial team, working in cooperation with the Critical Incident Team of the Division of Clinical Psychology (Hong Kong Psychological Society) and Christian Family Service Centre, provided psychological support and sharing sessions to a total of 205 Hong Kong Electric staff members.
At the sharing sessions, clinical psychologists shared with staff the possible emotional reactions resulting from the incident that might happen to themselves or their colleagues. They also suggested ways of handling such reactions and offering mutual support among colleagues, as well as the circumstances under which one should consider seeking professional psychological help.
Some staff members attended said although they were not directly involved in the incident, they still wanted to learn practical ways or tips on how to express their care and concerns to the affected colleagues nearby.
Clinical psychologist Eliza Cheung said: “The proper way to deal with traumatic crisis is to maintain sufficient rest and exercises, and to keep proper diets. We should also try our best to keep a normal daily schedule, to maintain our usual social activities, and to continue with our hobbies which are good for reducing stress. It is also fine to attend mourning events at a time when we feel alright.”
Since 2004, the Hong Kong Red Cross has been running a Psychological Support Service, currently with about 150 trained Psychological First Aiders including four volunteer clinical psychologists. The service is designed to provide immediate psychological first aid to affected parties traumatized by aviation disasters, critical incidents or natural disasters.