Trauma and Mental Health in the Wake of a Technological Disaster

The Ghislenghien Gas Explosion

By Erik L.J.L. De Soir

A gas explosion in Ghislenghien (Belgium, July 2004) instantly killed five firefighters, one police officer and 18 civilians. Moreover, 132 people were wounded and many of them suffered severe burn injuries. This book aims at clarifying the impact of a technological disaster, both phenomenologically and empirically. It also wishes to enhance the understanding of the challenges for psychological help in the wake of technological disaster. On the phenomenological side, the experiences of a disaster survivor are used to set the stage for a discussion on the conceptual differences between mainstream (Anglo-Saxon) trauma theories and the more classical (French) psychodynamic theories. Three chapters provide contextual information on the trauma inflicted by a massive explosion. On the empirical side, the focus is on the prevalence of posttraumatic stress symptoms in adult and child survivors of a massive gas explosion, in their family members as well as in family members of deceased victims. Four chapters provide a quantitative approach of trauma-related mental health disturbances in adults and children after a technological disaster. The results clearly indicate the influence of the degree of exposure, peritraumatic dissociation and dissatisfaction with social support on the development of posttraumatic stress symptoms. The risk for the development of four types of mental health disturbances (somatization, depression, anxiety and sleeping disturbances) was much higher in direct witnesses who have seen human damage. The epilogue discusses possible future developments for early psychophysiological stabilization of disaster victims. Erik De Soir is a psychologist and psychotherapist affiliated with the Royal Higher Institute of Defence and a senior lecturer in crisis psychology at the Department of Behavioral Sciences at the Royal Military Academy in Brussels (Belgium). He is also a trauma therapist and consultant at De Weg Wijzer - Center for Trauma Treatment in Leopoldsburg and an operational fire psychologist in Noord Limburg. He completed his Ph.D. on trauma and mental health in the wake of a technological disaster in 2015. [Subject: Social Work, Psychology, Sociology]


Publication Date: 11/15/2015
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9789046607855