Resilience Amidst Chaos: Unveiling the Triumphs and Trials of Psychosocial Support Professionals in the Aftermath of the 6th of February 2023 Kahramanmaraş Earthquakes in Turkiye

Selçuk O., Güzel B., Albayrak H., Kelebek Küçükarslan G.

13th European Conference for Social Work Research, Vilniaus, Lithuania, 17 - 19 April 2024

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: Vilniaus
  • Country: Lithuania
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University Affiliated: Yes


Background and Purpose: In the aftermath of the 6th of February 2023 Kahramanmaraş earthquakes, two powerful seismic events measuring 7.8 and 7.6 on the Richter scale, a profound and urgent problem emerged. The resulting devastation extended its impact across multiple regions, leading to the severe affliction of approximately 9.1 million individuals and the heartbreaking loss of 50,500 lives. This study aims to understand the triumphs and trials of professionals providing psychosocial support during the aftermath of these dual earthquakes and to comprehensively assess the challenges they encountered in disaster response. The central research questions that guide this study are: What were the challenges faced by professionals providing psychosocial support in the aftermath of Kahramanmaraş earthquakes? How did these professionals respond to the complex demands of disaster response, and what are the implications of their experiences for future disaster preparedness and response efforts?

Methods: This qualitative study involved 30 professionals from various disciplines, including social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychological counseling and guidance teachers. Purposive sampling ensured a diverse and representative sample. Data collection, conducted between February 27th and March 8th, involved in- depth, face-to-face interviews averaging 80 minutes in Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaraş and Malatya. Open-ended questions were tailored to elicit narratives on physical challenges, intervention processes, coordination efforts, professional development, psychological well-being, and self-care strategies. Thematic analysis was used to identify recurring themes and patterns within the data.

Findings: (1) Professionals' Experiences of Physical Challenges: In the aftermath of the earthquakes, professionals providing psychosocial support faced significant physical challenges. Many described the physically demanding circumstances of the disaster response as strenuous. Professionals faced strenuous physical challenges due to the demanding circumstances of disaster response, including long hours of work, navigating damaged infrastructure, and exposure to adverse weather conditions. Many reported exhaustion and physical discomfort. (2) Professionals' Experiences of Psychosocial Intervention Process and Coordination: The study revealed the intricacies of delivering psychosocial interventions and the complexities of coordination efforts in disaster response. Effective communication and collaboration among various agencies were crucial. Challenges included timely resource deployment, ensuring consistency in support services, and adapting interventions to evolving needs. Coordination emerged as a critical factor. (3) Professionals' Professional, Psychological, and Individual Experiences: The multifaceted impact of disaster response on professionals themselves became evident. Professionals experienced psychological and emotional strain, including heightened stress, emotional exhaustion, and trauma. Some also spoke of personal growth and a sense of purpose derived from their work, influencing their professional development positively. (4) Professionals' Support and Self-Support Process: Mechanisms for supporting professionals included peer networks and debriefing sessions. Self- care strategies such as mindfulness practices and therapy were essential. The study emphasized the need for comprehensive support systems.

Conclusions and Implications: This research advocates for effective planning and coordination in provision of psychosocial support services. It underscores the importance of standardized training for stakeholders and proposes a collaborative approach involving professional organizations. By deepening our understanding of the challenges faced by psychosocial support professionals during disaster response, this study aims to contribute to the development of more resilient disaster response systems.