The Costa Concordia Disaster – A PTSD Timebomb?
Much has been reported in the various media about the awful events that occurred on the evening of 13 January 2012 when the Costa Concordia ran aground on the Island of Giglio off the Italian coast. Reports have concentrated on the “How”, the “Why” and most definitely the confusion that ensued during the evacuation. Blame is still being apportioned with the Captain, rightly or wrongly, being the main target. Even the fact that we are in the centenary year of the 1912 Titanic Disaster has been commented on. Thankfully, it transpires that more life was not lost, though the loss of just one life in any senseless accident is too much. Of course, the loss of life could have been much worse. Little has been said thus far, however, regarding the psychological effects that such a disaster can bring to bear.
The startling fact is that shipwreck survivors are thought to be the most likely to succumb to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the following years. Some publications would put the figure as high as 75%! The Concordia had a capacity of over 4,000 with a crew of approximately 400. So let’s say for argument’s sake, that there were 4,500 souls on board at the time of the disaster. That means that 3,375 people will endure some form of PTSD type symptoms! Of course, many of these will be mild and many people will successfully deal with them in their own way, but no doubt, there will be many that require specialist help in the years to come.
Any such “reaction” that occurs within 6 months of the traumatic event is known as an Acute Stress Reaction and any such symptoms must also be present for a certain amount of time. So it could be at least a year before we start seeing the first cases emerging and given that such symptoms can take up to 15 years to present (a figure I contest, but that’s the published wisdom), we may be seeing “Concordia PTSD” for many years to come!
Immediate counselling and survivors willingness to accept such assistance when it is offered will also help to bring this number down. Yet there is another difficulty in that the survivors are geographically dispersed across the World. We have the well publicised rescue of the Korean couple, the lady that having survived the incident, took herself off home to Germany before thinking to let the authorities know that she was okay, thus removing herself from the “missing list”. Americans, English, even the crew were mostly Indian. So unless some bright spark in the cruise company thinks to set up a system designed to keep tabs on the survivors, we will never truly know the psychological impact of this disaster.
As a specialist in the field of PTSD and Psychological Trauma, I really do wish all that were involved in this awful tragedy the very bus of luck in the future. Let’s face it, to be involved in such an incident could be viewed as the worst luck possible. Call me cynical, but I for one will be expecting the first few PTSD sufferers to walk through the collective therapists door in the next few years. Perhaps even my door!