This year, the 5th International Congress of Positive Psychology was completed after 3-day sessions, which was organized by Üsküdar University organized with the theme of “Science of Kindness/ What does Kindness Bring? & Growth After Earthquake and Trauma“. In the “Manifesto for Post-Traumatic Growth as a Result of Earthquake” announced by the congress organizing committee, it was emphasized that traumatic experiences such as earthquakes can cause not only psychological disorders but also positive change and development. In the 7-point manifesto, attention was drawn to the lessons to be learned from the Kahramanmaraş-based earthquakes that devastated our country. In the manifesto, where it is emphasized that the earthquake should be considered as an opportunity to direct growth and development and increase awareness for all our citizens and our country, it was expressed that “Activities that support development and learning should be increased in terms of awareness, preparation and coping in all children, young people and adults in our country. As a society, steps should be taken to lead to development in terms of cooperation, mutualization and organization.”.
Kahramanmaraş earthquakes must be seen as an opportunity
Üsküdar University 5th International Congress of Positive Psychology was held with the theme of “Science of Kindness/ What does Kindness Bring? & Growth After Earthquake and Trauma” with the partnership of Üsküdar University, NPİSTANBUL Hospital, NP Etiler & Feneryolu Medical Center, Turkish Psychological Counselling and Guidance Association and Positive Psychology Institute.
The Manifesto for Post-traumatic Growth as a Result of Earthquake was announced
The congress, which was held at Üsküdar University Central Campus Nermin Tarhan Conference Hall and held as phy-gital, was completed after three days of sessions. The congress ended with the announcement of the “Manifesto for Post-Traumatic Growth as a Result of Earthquake” by the organizing committee.
The disaster of the century affected physical and mental health
In the manifesto, it is stated that Türkiye experienced one of the biggest disasters in its history on February 6, 2023 and said, “According to the official data of a month later on the earthquakes epicenter of which is Kahramanmaraş and affected 11 provinces, nearly 50 thousand people lost their lives, hundreds of thousands of people were injured and as many structures were damaged or destroyed. In the official statement of the United Nations (UN), it was stated that the financial loss reached 100 billion dollars. This disaster, also called the disaster of the century, has directly or indirectly affected the physical and mental health of all our citizens along with their daily lives.”.
It triggers emergence of psychological disorders
In the manifesto, where it is stated that such natural disasters, being unknowable in advance, trigger the emergence of psychological disorders because they awaken a sense of helplessness in the person and cause great changes in normal life and it was expressed that: “The most common of these disorders are depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The most common symptoms of depression are reluctance, weakness, depressive mood, sleep and appetite problems, and the inability to enjoy life. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include constant recall of the event after the traumatic event, avoidance of situations or events reminiscent of the trauma, and high stimulation. Such mental health problems may show different characteristics in individuals and difficulties may be seen in diagnosis and treatment.”.
Traumatic experiences can lead to a positive change and development
In the manifesto, where it is noted that traumatic experiences such as earthquakes can cause not only psychological disorders but also positive change and development, it is also expressed that: “The concept of post-traumatic growth refers to positive psychological changes that occur as a result of the person struggling with stressful events. These people see changes and improvements in the areas of self-understanding, social relations and philosophy of life. Pain and difficulties experienced can have consequences that support the development of the individual and society. It is thought that professional psychosocial support to be provided by experts in the field after traumatic events will support post-traumatic development.”.
Being prepared of a disaster is important
In the manifesto, it was emphasized that the post-earthquake period is very important in terms of healing the wounds, meeting the basic needs and providing psychosocial support activities, and it was stated that “From the first moment of the disaster, international and national organizations have stepped in and our entire society has started and continues its aid to the region in state and national mobilization. This tremendous disaster should be evaluated in terms of increasing awareness about being prepared for a disaster and disaster management by reminding the fact that our country is a country of earthquake. Not only Türkiye, but all countries around the world were witnessed sending rescue teams and aid. A neighbor country shared the message ‘We know you as strong’.”.
We wanted to highlight the opportunity aspect of trauma
The Organizing Committee of the 5th International Congress of Positive Psychology emphasized that they aspired to answer the question “What did this earthquake teach us?” with the items of the “Post-Traumatic Growth Scales” and that they wanted to highlight not only the threat aspect of trauma but also the opportunity aspect, and listed these results in the following 7 items:
1-In terms of apparent causes, we declare that the universal rules of civil engineering in line with the evidence-based predictions of geologists should no longer be overlooked.
2-There are not only lives left under the debris… We declare that it must be acknowledged that all social morality, including the morality of management, business and commerce left under.
3- We declare that pre-disaster planning, disaster response, recovery and reconstruction plans during the risk management phase should be done in advance, the fact that day-to-day decisions should not be given an opportunity and that it is obligatory that lessons must be learned in this regard.
4- We declare that the following lessons to be learn will be a beneficial to the growth of high values and emotions; “I understood the value of what I had better. I accept events that are beyond my control, where I cannot control them, as they happen. I realized that I had to learn to face the challenges and be more resilient. I realized that I needed to think not only about myself but also about the environment and nature I live in. I understood that increasing my interest in spiritual values would benefit everyone. A lot of the things I care about have changed. I have lost my physical comfort, my freedoms have been restricted, I have realized that my death is imminent.”.
5-While our lives are now shaped as before and after the earthquake and we continue to heal the wounds by gaining new wisdom values, we declare that we should ensure that our children gain fulfillment, postponement of satiety and psychological resilience; however, it is important that we return to normal life after these lessons.
6- It was observed with joy and satisfaction that various polarizations that contribute to social brotherhood were ignored, and we declare our hope that this situation will be permanent.
7- As a result, we hope that this earthquake will be used as an opportunity to direct growth and development and raise awareness for all our citizens and our country. Activities that support development and learning should be increased in terms of awareness, preparation and coping in all children, young people and adults in our country. As a society, steps should be taken to lead to development in terms of cooperation, mutualization and organization. We believe that it is very important to act with the unity of mind and heart to identify the existing problems in all areas of community life such as urbanism, education, health, environment and security and to put healthy solutions into practice. There is a secret law of psychology: “Pain and suffering are actually part of growing up.”.
It was decided that above mentioned items will be declared by the organizing committee of the 5th International Positive Psychology Congress at the end of the session with the theme “Post-traumatic Growth after Earthquake”. As a final word, we would like to remind you once again of the warning of Prof. Howard Gardner from Harvard University, who found and developed the “Theory of Multiple Intelligences” and supported our congress by participating online, “Life may become easier in the future, but it might not be easy to be human.”.
Prof. Nevzat Tarhan: “We must discuss the results from every aspect”
President of Üsküdar University Prof. Nevzat Tarhan, who is also the President of the Congress, emphasized the importance of understanding the manifesto announced in his closing speech by all segments of society. Prof. Nevzat Tarhan said, “If we can discuss the results and concepts in the manifesto as managers, as a society in terms of data, if we can develop them, it will be the best spiritual investment we have made in the future of Türkiye. The manifesto was the lessons learned from this phenomenon. What this congress produced was, in fact, the revenue of the congress. It is not easy to put this into practice. For this reason, I believe we all have a duty and responsibility.”.
Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)