By THE NATION
THE ROYAL College of Psychiatrists of Thailand has offered guidelines for treating the 13 footballers once they are all rescued from the Chiang Rai cave.
Four members of the Mu Pa Academy Mae Sai football club were evacuated from the cave on Sunday, another four yesterday, and the rest were expected to follow soon.
In an article published for the college, psychiatrist Ananya Sinrachatanant pointed out that the footballers were victims of an unexpected natural disaster over which they had no control. Professionals, with the community’s help, should provide the necessary physical and mental rehabilitation, she wrote.
There were lessons to be learned from the ordeal so as to prevent any recurrence, she said, adding that pinning blame and open criticism would only cause social disunity.
Ananya suggested that the news media stick to factual reporting and avoid interpretations or speculation based on personal viewpoints. News reports should be presented in ways that benefit society, providing information about the rescuers and volunteers rather than sensationalising events, and should guard against violating anyone’s privacy, Ananya said.
She urged the media to let the victims be medically assessed and begin their physical and mental recovery before pursuing them for their stories. Ananya also suggested that the youths and their coach be briefed about people’s reactions and responses across Thailand and around the world while they were trapped in the cave, but purely on a factual basis rather than an overly dramatised version.
They should be shielded at first from critical and sensational news and social media commentary and should not be repeatedly asked to recount their personal experiences, as that would force them to relive their traumatic experience over and over again.
The rescued team members’ families should also be given time to recuperate while being kept informed of their health condition, Ananya wrote, and have assistance for their own physical and mental recovery.
Urging the boys’ schools and community to give them and their families ample personal space, she warned against portraying any comfort to given them as a form of reward, as that would confuse the youths.
When the rescued group is ready to talk about what they went through, it should be handled as lessons in survival and avoiding disaster in future, she said.
In no way should the youths or coach be scolded or expected to display gratitude – they will already feel guilty enough. Ananya urged people to moderate their news consumption and make sure a story is accurate before sharing it, and to avoid getting too emotional, either negatively or positively.
The main takeaways should be in reflecting over what happened and avoiding recurrence and in teaching children how to survive in unexpected crises, to solve problems and to work as part of a team.