While the media’s attention remains on the 141 who lost their lives in the Peshawar massacre and the government’s response, there are another set of very real victims that are at the risk of being forgotten; the survivor’s of the attack, for they have to live with the weight of the scenes they saw for the rest of their lives. The survivors will face severe shock, depression, anxiety and emotional pain because they have seen their classmates, relatives, siblings and teachers brutally killed in front of them. Being part of a traumatic experience or witnessing its effects can have severe physiological consequences, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and clinical depression, If not treated right, and with haste. PTSD and clinical depression are widespread in global armed forces, with the US spending millions to combat a ballooning suicide rate among veterans. Here it’s not grizzled soldiers but children on the line, and we must be doubly sensitive to their plight.
Previous incidents such as the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in the US and the killing spree of Anders Breivik in Norway might have important lessons for us. Both primary affected children and teenager, and studies into both incidents revealed PTSD symptoms in majority of the survivors. The state, in both instances established psychological treatment centres which pro-actively sought out the victims and provided guidance, treatment and therapy to both the children and their primary caregivers, such as parents. The state must provide proven treatments such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to the victims at the utmost priority. For this purpose the state has formed a six-member committee comprising members from mental health and non communicable disease coordination cell of ministry of Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulation & Coordination, Army Medical Corps, psychiatrists from Islamabad and Peshawar, World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and DFID. It must now move quickly to ensure that the figure of 141 does not rise.