Chernobyl Liquidators' Health
as a Psycho-Social Trauma
The psychologist opens conclusions of the review with an eloquent remark (Suefeld 1987: 878):
The most striking aspect of the literature (in the field. — S. M.) is the ability of human beings to adapt, individually and socially, to the harshest of naturally and artificially occurring conditions.
On the basis of the psychological data presented, it is stated that psychological deterioration tends to occur primarily when there is a long period of subacute frustration, privation, and confinement.
However, even in the circumstances of extreme danger, cognitive and social performance can remain high, and their decrease may be more a function of the loss of motivation.
This difference, i.e. the difference between the long period of subacute frustration, privation, and confinement and the circumstances of extreme danger, seems to be extremely important for the case of the Chernobyl liquidators. It clearly points out the existence of separate groups of the liquidators affected by different facets (i.e., combinations of harmful factors) of the Disaster, and, thus, showing different reactions to “Chernobyl”.
The researcher points at cardiovascular system as the most salient locus of change. Negative impacts of extreme and unusual environments on social environment are considered to be very common.
The individuals and groups, who have gone through even rather traumatic circumstances, appear to show no major symptoms of mental illnesses. However, those of them who have had extremely harsh experience, and especially if the conditions were imposed deliberately by a hostile source but not accepted by a good will of a person with the knowledge of what to expect (and this seems to be the case for, perhaps, the majority of the liquidators), have a common set of symptoms, embraced by the notion of PTSD, which includes hyperactivity in response to stimuli associated with the experience, nightmares, guilt feelings, apathy, and psychosomatic illness.
Post-traumatic stress disorder seems to be of an utmost relevance to the case of the Chernobyl liquidators, and I will deal with this framework in much more detail in the next subchapter.
Design by: M.Opalev
Studio ARWIS Kharkov, 2001