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Accepted Paper:

Environmental trauma (or, when the rain haunts)  

Author:

Eleni Kotsira (University of St Andrews)

Paper short abstract:

Natural disasters challenge our conceptions of being and feeling well, in terms of both physical and mental health. This presentation discusses the case of environmental trauma on a remote island in Northern Greece, as the result of a catastrophic deluge and in the absence of mental health care.

Paper long abstract:

In the morning hours of 26 September 2017, the village of Chóra on the island of Samothraki filled with rushing torrents carrying mud, rocks detached from the mountain and detritus. Extensive floods were also recorded elsewhere across the island and caused roads to collapse, destroyed individual properties and immobilised local administration for weeks to come. According to the locals, it was unprecedented for the mountainous village of Chóra to flood – as ‘the water would always flow downwards’. The island of Samothraki was declared in a ‘state of emergency’ from 26 September 2017 to 26 September 2018.Though financial and infrastructural damages were addressed relatively quickly, the residents’ mental health remained an untouched issue. Reports of trauma and fear toward the environment became soon widespread however, evidently introducing ruptures in the community’s everyday life and habits. Combining symptoms of PTSD from psychiatry with historical data about the island’s population growth and immigration movements, this presentation will seek the reasons behind the lack of mental health support and contextualise the residents’ emotional responses in the months that followed, as these were recorded during 15 months of fieldwork and supplemented by a large-scale online survey. In particular, I am introducing the term ‘environmental trauma’ to analyse the potential and the challenges of having one’s perception of their surrounding natural and human-made environment altered. I am also considering this as a pivotal moment for the community to assume organised action and ameliorate the living conditions on the island.

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