'Stoic' image masks struggle

Libby Gawith
Libby Gawith
Despite the "stoic Cantabrians" image portrayed in the media, children and families living in post-quake Christchurch were struggling to adjust, the annual New Zealand Psychological Society conference in Queenstown heard yesterday.

Christchurch Polytechnic Information and Technology lecturer and psychologist Libby Gawith described what Christ-church's citizens had been coping with while living in limbo.

"Psychological first-aid" had been of help to families, neighbours and communities dealing, in many cases, with the loss of loved ones, but also with financial insecurity along with damage to homes, the city's buildings and people's way of life.

Despite the support shown, people were struggling with the loss of amenities and facilities, and there was social upheaval with people leaving Christchurch.

To illustrate, Ms Gawith used the example of Brighton, where half the streets are designated "red zone".

"In years to come, that [the red zoned houses] will be gone, half the kids in the school will be gone, half this, half that. It's an incredible change and thing to deal with."

She spoke of a woman who recently responded to a radio story about Kaiapoi, saying she was "so sick about everyone in New Zealand going on about how stoic people in Canterbury are".

"She said 'It's bloody patronising. I've just lost my house and the whole community, and some days we just aren't [stoic]'."

Of most help for adults were changes in attitude, random acts of kindness and planning for the future.

For children, the most helpful thing was to return to school and the routine of other normal activities to help them get over effects of the earthquakes, or away from their "locus of control"


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