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Trauma From an Earthquake and Healing


Recovering from trauma is intricate and multifaceted, and its results can be far-reaching. A traumatic event is one or a series of events that hurt a person’s physical, mental, or emotional health. Harassment, neglect, crime, accidental deaths, and natural catastrophes are some of the many experiences that can lead to this condition (Liang et al., 2020). A person’s mental and physical health, relationships, and quality of life are all susceptible to being negatively affected by trauma. Professional caregivers have made it their mission to aid trauma survivors as the effects of trauma have become increasingly recognized. Unfortunately, many professionals attempting to treat survivors lack evidence-based trauma-focused treatment and may be unprofessionally working outside their expertise. This thesis investigates the effects of various healing strategies on people who have experienced trauma because of the earthquake. The research will look at Albania’s people impacted by the earthquake and examine the various methods of recovery implemented. How do Yoga, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and ideas from Catholic Social Teaching help Albanians recover from the trauma of the 2019 earthquake?

Numerous survivors in Albania still feel the effects of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake on September 21, 2019. Twenty-one people were killed, and over six hundred were wounded because of the earthquake, which was concentrated 16 kilometers away west-southwest of Mamurras (Walker & Smith, 2019). Healing from the devastating effects of the earthquake proved difficult and exhausting for the survivors. The airport in Tirana was damaged, so flights were canceled, and schools across the country were closed. Two women were discovered in the wreckage of a Thuman apartment building, and a man was reported dead in the town of Kurbin after jumping from a building. Many of the earthquake’s survivors felt hopeless and subjected after experiencing its disastrous impact. Many people had trouble processing what had happened after their homes and communities were completely obliterated, and they lost loved ones (NEWS WIRES, 2019). Those who survived these losses were in a crisis in a country with Europe’s lowest GDP per capita (Dwyer, 2019). There was a heavy emotional impact from the earthquake, and many survivors showed evidence of PTSD in the weeks and months that followed.

Studies show that trauma can negatively affect people, but it also has the potential to stimulate personal development. Humanitarian assistance was the primary focus of relief operations in the first days following the earthquake. Food, water, shelter, and medical attention for the injured were all part of this. However, as time progressed, attention shifted to the mental wellness requirements of victims overall. The results of this research will aid in creating efficient methods of overcoming trauma in the wake of natural disasters. This study is especially timely given Albania’s ongoing reconstruction and recovery efforts. This thesis aims to assist in creating programs that can support people in the recovery process by providing a greater understanding of the circumstances faced by those who have suffered trauma.

Overview of trauma and the symptoms

Albanians experienced serious and long-lasting trauma and symptoms because of the earthquake. Also, Terrorizing the physical and mental health of disaster victims, earthquakes are unpredictable, uncontrollable disasters (Pino et al., 2021). Many young and older adults suffered from shock, grief, and panic after the earthquake. According to the Albanian Association of Psychologists, many earthquake victims have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the ordeal (WHO, 2019). After months or even years have passed, the traumatic event may still trigger PTSD symptoms such as memories, sleep problems, and anti-social behaviors.

The earthquake not only caused mental distress but also badly damaged the bodies of its victims. The earthquake caused numerous injuries, and the obliteration of buildings and infrastructure created obstacles for rescue workers to reach those in need. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the earthquake had a major effect on the healthcare requirements of the affected population, with many people demanding medical treatment for injury inflicted during the collapse.

The stigma of asking for help is a major barrier to providing mental health support to earthquake survivors. Exposure to unfavorable social, economic, political, and environmental circumstances can harm one’s mental health, which is crucial to one’s society, and improving living standards (Hussaini et al., 2022). Many people in Albania suffer in silence because they fear stigmatization if they admit they have a mental health problem (Ramaj, 2021). It hampered relief agencies’ ability to contact survivors and aid. A lack of financial security, difficulties obtaining help, a dearth of state public care, and a weak governmental system have all worked against their reconstruction.

Aid groups worked tirelessly to ensure earthquake survivors had the opportunity to receive psychological care despite these obstacles. The first step was to train local health professionals to recognize and treat problems with mental health, and the second was to set up counseling in the affected communities. In addition, many groups tried to lessen the shame of discussing mental health issues and encourage people to seek help when needed. The results of these efforts became apparent over time. Many survivors with PTSD and other mental health problems sought treatment and reported feeling better and more hopeful. The healing process is ongoing, but thanks to the work of aid organizations, there is now a more accepting atmosphere for people who have experienced trauma and less discrimination toward those who struggle with emotional stability.

The macroeconomic effects of natural disasters may vary depending on the type of disaster. The earthquake additionally had a major effect on the Albanian economy. Numerous people were made homeless or lost their jobs due to the widespread destruction of buildings and other infrastructure. According to the World Bank, the earthquake had a major impact on the country’s financial stability, and the rescue operation would require a lot of money and effort. In the event of an earthquake in Albania in 2019, the country will continue to benefit from the stimulus provided by rebuilding investment long after the initial shock has subsided (ALTax, 2020). Compensation for losses is the engine that powers post-disaster recovery, with social productivity and long-term economic growth as its foundation. Therefore, expanding the economy is the best way to compensate for disaster-related losses.

The effects of the earthquake on people’s minds were no less profound than the material and financial losses. Nonetheless, the people of Albania have proven to be remarkably strong and determined in the face of adversity. Many initiatives have been to restore and revitalize earthquake-stricken areas in the years following the disaster. New residential and commercial buildings have been constructed, and measures to strengthen infrastructure and lessen vulnerability to natural disasters have been put into effect. There is still a long way to go, but the achievements show how far the Albanians have come.

As a result, the September 21, 2019, earthquake in Albania had far-reaching and severe consequences. The psychological toll was high, and recovery has been arduous for those who made it. Progress is being made in rebuilding and revitalizing affected communities, thanks to aid organizations’ efforts and the Albanian people’s resiliency. The people of Albania must demonstrate that they can recover from tragedy, even if the effects of the earthquake are permanent. Natural catastrophes can have short-term effects on a community. However, the trauma and symptoms experienced by Albanians in the aftermath of the earthquake indicate the long-term effects individuals and societies can feel. Those whose lives have been disrupted by major catastrophes need our help and care in restoring their lives.

Interdisciplinary approaches to healing from therapy

a) Effects of Collective Trauma

Damage to buildings, homes, and entire neighborhoods is often the result of earthquakes. Long after an earthquake has ended, the trauma experienced by those who lived through it can affect the affected individuals and the larger community. When a society experiences collective trauma, it is essentially destroyed. In addition to the tragic loss of life, mass trauma can result in individual cases of anxiety, depression, and PTSD (PTSD). Collective trauma can have long-lasting consequences for individuals, families, and communities, even decades after the traumatic event has passed. The social construction of meaning is a major effect of collective trauma. The breakdown of social norms and values and a lack of trust in institutions and authority figures can follow a traumatic event in a community. As people try to make sense of the traumatic event and rediscover meaning, this can leave them feeling alone and disconnected from the world.

Collective trauma also has repercussions in people’s daily lives. Anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are just some behavioral changes that can occur after a community experiences a traumatic event]. Aggression, violence, and isolation are just some social changes that can result. As people in the community try to recover from the trauma, these shifts often have a multiplicative effect. After a natural disaster, like an earthquake, it can be difficult to deal with the cascading collective traumas that affect the community. Stressful life events have been linked to increased levels of distress, functional impairment, and lower levels of life satisfaction. After a natural disaster, when people are grieving the loss of friends, family, and neighborhoods, this can be especially difficult.

The collective trauma of those affected by an earthquake can also be affected by the health response. The health response in the wake of the 2019 earthquake in Albania was crucial in reducing casualties and restoring normalcy to the populace. Those needing medical attention, mental health services, and emotional support were among those prioritized. In sum, the collective trauma of an earthquake has the potential to have far-reaching and long-lasting effects. There can be far-reaching effects on individuals and society due to the social construction of meaning, impacts on daily life, and difficulties in coping with cascading collective traumas. Communities hit by an earthquake must be given the resources and help they need to recover from the devastation. Help with housing, community revitalization, and access to medical care and mental health services are all part of this. Communities can begin to recover from devastating events like earthquakes if residents pull together to do so.

b) Yoga

Those fortunate enough to survive a natural disaster may have to make major adjustments to their way of life. However, the effects of natural disasters are not limited to local communities; they can extend to entire states and even countries. The effects of such trauma are often severe and long-lasting. Many people report significant improvements in their mental health after practicing Yoga, and this has been studied in the context of post-disaster recovery. Postures, breathing techniques, and meditation are just some of the components that make up Yoga, an ancient system of medicine. These are known as mind-body interventions, and they have the potential to heal both the mind and the body at the same time.

There is mounting evidence that Yoga can help with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues (Mathew, 2021). Some people have found relief from post-traumatic stress through practicing Yoga. Due to the negative side effects of pharmaceutical interventions, Yoga as a quasi and quasi treatment has grown in popularity in monitoring symptoms of depression and anxiety (Azami et al., 2018). Patients with PTSD have shown improved emotional regulation, a crucial component in managing PTSD, after engaging in Yoga, which has been shown to regulate physiological arousal. Yoga is more than just a physical practice incorporating the mind and spirit. In addition, it helps lower the autonomic nervous stress load by increasing parasympathetic activity, which is managed by decreasing amygdalar hyperactivity and maintaining stable cortisol levels. PTSD symptoms are reduced because of the altered self-perception by yoga practice.

A recent study demonstrated that trauma-sensitive Yoga is an effective treatment for PTSD (Der, 2014). After a traumatic event, survivors may exhibit a wide range of responses. Most people who endure that ordeal show some initial reaction, but it usually does not last. It is because most people who survive traumatic experiences can recover quickly and effectively by employing healthy coping mechanisms and social support. Most people improve over time, exhibit little suffering, and perform adequately across many important life domains and developmental stages. Subclinical symptoms or symptoms that do not meet diagnostic criteria for ASD or PTSD may still be present in clients with minimal impairment. Some persons who have experienced trauma are more likely than others to develop post-traumatic stress disorders, such as depression and anxiety. PTSD symptoms include hyperarousal, numbing, and reliving the traumatic event.

Hatha yoga’s mindfulness-based intervention is promising as an adjunct treatment since it emphasizes development and symptom alleviation. Hatha Yoga combines physical movement, breathing exercises, and purposeful relaxation to develop one’s capacity for mindful awareness. Gratitude and compassion, connectedness, acceptance, being in the center, and empowerment were the five overarching themes that emerged from the interviews (West et al., 2017). In addition to alleviating symptoms, this style of Yoga encourages introspection and growth. It teaches people to be in the here and now by emphasizing the importance of connecting the mind and body.

The mental benefits of Yoga include an enhanced ability to concentrate and recall information. It is also useful for alleviating signs of mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and more. Yoga has improved cognition, including memory, motor skills, and analytical reasoning. Chronic pain is a common trauma symptom, and this treatment can help alleviate it. It can also aid in restoring normal sleep patterns, which are frequently disturbed in people who have been through traumatic experiences (Macy et al., 2018).

Self-regulation, positive body awareness, and social connection are some areas where Yoga has been shown to aid trauma survivors. However, Yoga by itself is insufficient as a treatment for traumatic stress. Instead, it should be used in conjunction with other, more proven forms of treatment, such as talk therapy, medication, Etc. Yoga’s ability to stabilize the autonomic nervous system (ANS) can encourage patients to participate in psychotherapy and counseling, facilitating healing after trauma. When a traumatic memory is triggered, a person’s body may take longer to return to a resting state than usual. Yoga alone may not be enough to heal the trauma caused by natural disasters, but combined with other therapies, it can be extremely effective.

c) EMDR therapy

After experiencing an earthquake, a person may experience a wide range of distressing feelings, such as PTSD, grief, fear, intrusive thoughts, and depression. The treatment of choice for reducing these negative feelings and aiding in recovery from earthquake trauma is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Francine Shapiro, a psychologist, created EMDR therapy in the late 1980s as a form of psychotherapy. The therapy involves following a series of visual cues to help patients work through difficult emotions and recollections. Therapists using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) guide their clients through eye movements while they think about a traumatic memory. It is believed that the individual’s ability to process memory and reduce the negative emotions associated with it is enhanced by eye movements.

EMDR therapy is an effective treatment for traumatic experiences, including natural disasters. Anxiety and distress associated with earthquakes can be alleviated through EMDR therapy, according to research conducted by the EMDR Institute. Participants in the study who underwent EMDR therapy reported statistically and clinically significant improvements in PTSD, grief, fear, intrusive thoughts, and depression. The short duration of EMDR therapy is one of its many advantages. EMDR therapy typically only requires a few sessions, whereas traditional talk therapy can take months or even years. It can be especially helpful for people who have suffered losses and other traumas due to an earthquake, such as relocating or losing loved ones.

EMDR therapy is also advantageous because it does not involve any invasive procedures. EMDR therapy is a non-invasive alternative to traditional treatments for trauma, like medication and electroconvulsive therapy. It can be especially helpful for people worried about the possible unpleasant effects of treatment. It is essential to remember that EMDR therapy is not a cookie-cutter approach. Some people may need additional or different treatments besides this therapy in order to deal with their trauma. However, for those who benefit from EMDR therapy, it can be life-changing. Finally, EMDR therapy is a viable option for treating earthquake-related trauma. Studies have shown that the therapy can help alleviate symptoms of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals who have suffered traumatic experiences due to an earthquake may find EMDR therapy an effective short-term, non-invasive treatment. At the same time, some people may not benefit from EMDR therapy, but those who do stand to gain a great deal from engaging in the process.

d) Critical Concerns of the sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy have always fought for the weak and helpless; earthquake victims are no exception. Individuals and communities can suffer significant psychological and bodily harm from natural disasters, making a recovery long and arduous. In this section, we will talk about the Sisters of Mercy’s biggest worries for earthquake victims. Emotional suffering, lack of resources, and the significance of social networks are all on the list. The Sisters of Mercy are especially concerned about the potential for emotional distress among earthquake victims. Children, the elderly, and people with preexisting mental health conditions are most at risk for emotional distress from earthquakes, per SAMHSA (SAMHSA, 2022). Disasters can wreak havoc on people’s daily lives, causing stress and opening the door to various negative behaviors, including domestic violence. Women and young girls are often targeted. Anxiety, depressed mood, and PTSD are just some of the emotional reactions that can result from the trauma of experiencing an earthquake. The Sisters of Mercy understand the significance of providing counseling, supportive services, and other psychological health care for those affected by earthquakes.

Providing earthquake survivors with the tools they need to repair and rebuild is also a top priority for the Sisters of Mercy (SXU, 2021). Examples are food, shelter, medical care, and even monetary aid. In Albania, for instance, thousands of affected families have been housed and fed by local convents. The Sisters of Mercy know that helping earthquake victims get their hands on the tools they need to rebuild their lives is crucial. The Sisters of Mercy are not only helping earthquake victims financially, but they are also encouraging community involvement. It is common for victims of natural disasters to feel abandoned and alone after the disaster has passed. In order to aid in the recovery and reconstruction of earthquake victims, the Sisters of Mercy stress the importance of establishing strong, supportive communities. It can include hosting local gatherings to encourage people to talk to one another and share their stories.

Finally, the Sisters of Mercy are dedicated to fighting for earthquake relief measures that put victims’ needs first. It can range from lobbying for improved earthquake-related mental health services to calling for increased funding for disaster relief efforts. The Sisters of Mercy strive to make the world more just and equitable for all people by focusing on the underlying causes of earthquake-related trauma and promoting systemic change. Hence, the Sisters of Mercy care deeply about earthquake victims. Helping those whose lives have been disrupted by natural catastrophes is a primary concern. They do all they can, from providing moral support to facilitating available resources and advocacy for social transformation. The Sisters of Mercy presume that an increasingly just and inclusive world can be created for all by collaborating and creating strong, friendly communities, even though the problems confronting earthquake victims can be enormous.

e) The ideas found in Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic social teaching (CST) provides a wealth of insight into creating a just society and remaining holy in the face of contemporary pressures. It rests on the conviction that each person is made in God’s image and possesses innate worth and dignity. Popes, councils, and bishops have contributed to developing contemporary Catholic social teaching (USCCB, 2021). Reading these documents in their original form is the best way to grasp the depth and richness of this tradition. Human dignity, solidarity, and subsidiarity are the three pillars of CST (Wright, 2017).

Catholic teaching requires a commitment to environmental sustainability. In order to put our faith into action, we must take care of all of God’s creation, including human beings (CCSWW, 2023). This environmental challenge has moral and ethical dimensions that must be considered. The Church acknowledges that natural disasters can result in tremendous suffering and loss of life, particularly for the most defenseless members of society. Those who have lost loved ones in the disaster may be experiencing a wide range of emotions. Churches, especially now, need to be places of solace and renewal for their communities. When people lose their homes or possessions, churches can use their resources to provide them with food, clothing, medical supplies, and other necessities. One of the most helpful things people can do in the aftermath of a disaster is to make a financial contribution (Aten & Annan, 2023).

The field of Korean disaster management has been influenced by many different religions in South Korea, not just the country’s official religion. When calamity struck, the church ministry responded by providing various aid forms to the congregation’s members (ICRC, 2021). Communication during an emergency, policing of employees, permission to take emergency action, choosing a location for a temporary site, management oversight, and operational requirements are all examples. Christian churches’ efforts during the recovery phase of a disaster have been a model of caring administration.

When making decisions, the option for people experiencing poverty requires people to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable members of society over their desires. We are called to prioritize the poor as followers of Christ (University of Notre Dame, 2015). It means examining how policies affect low-income people and ensuring their voices are heard. The poor person’s choice requires us to help the weakest in the community so that we can all benefit. It means helping those who have lost everything in an earthquake, including their homes, businesses, and loved ones.

Solidarity is another central tenet of Catholic Social Teaching. The virtue of solidarity allows the human family to share all of its material and spiritual wealth (Wright, 2017). It means considering that the disaster has far-reaching consequences for the entire community, not just its immediate victims. It denotes a commitment to helping those impacted by the earthquake in whatever ways one can, individually and collectively, to create more just and fraternal systems. The ability to “lose ourselves” for the benefit of others is what is required.


The earthquake that struck Albania in November 2019 deeply impacted the country, causing widespread destruction and trauma. The road to recovery has been long and difficult, but several approaches can help Albanians heal from the trauma of the earthquake. Yoga is a practice that has been used for centuries to promote physical, mental and emotional well-being. It involves a series of postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques that can help individuals reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. In the aftermath of the earthquake, many Albanians experienced high levels of stress and anxiety, which can have long-term effects on their mental and physical health. Yoga can help individuals manage these symptoms by promoting relaxation, reducing muscle tension, and improving sleep quality. By incorporating Yoga into their daily routine, Albanians can improve their overall well-being and reduce the negative effects of trauma.

EMDR is a psychotherapy approach that is effective in treating trauma-related disorders. It involves a series of eye movements designed to help individuals process traumatic memories and reduce their emotional distress. EMDR can be particularly helpful for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event, such as the earthquake in Albania. Working with a trained therapist, individuals can learn to process their traumatic memories in a safe and supportive environment. EMDR can help individuals reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety.

Catholic Social Teaching is a set of principles that guide the Catholic Church’s approach to social justice. These principles include the dignity of the human person, the common good, and solidarity. In the aftermath of the earthquake, it is important to remember these principles and to work towards rebuilding a society based on justice and compassion. By showing solidarity with those affected by the earthquake, Albanians can begin to heal from the trauma of the earthquake and build a stronger society.

In conclusion, the road to recovery from the trauma of the earthquake in Albania is long and difficult. However, by incorporating practices such as Yoga, EMDR, and ideas from Catholic Social Teaching, Albanians can begin to heal from the trauma and build a stronger, more resilient society. These approaches can help individuals manage their symptoms, process their traumatic memories, and work toward a more just and compassionate.


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