Psychologist: ‘Enhance coping through preparation, education, and comfort’ after false missile alert

Many Hawaii residents went into survival mode after getting the alert message Saturday morning about an incoming missile headed towards the islands.

Kahala couple Kaiolani Torres and Remi Abellira grabbed a tent and their dogs, hopped in their car, and started driving towards the mountains hoping to escape the blast.

“I just thought going as far away from the blast zone and trying to get back in the valley would be a smart thing,” Abellira said. “But really, where you going to go? Who wants to live after a fall out like that?”

“Meanwhile, we’re texting everybody [and] calling,” Torres said. “I said okay, let’s call 911. Can’t get through to them the calls are dropping. I thought it must be real, everybody’s doing this.”

Torres and Abellira were still shaken up. The experience was traumatic and they said it will stay with them forever.

Torres even sent her son in California a text message. In it she explained what was about to happen.

“Son, a missile is heading to Hawaii. We have to get to shelter. I want you to know I love you, always have, always will. Anything we have left, I want you to be able to share with your brother. So take care of each other,” Torres wrote.

Torres said she truly thought they were going to die.

“He’s driving and I’m looking around for a missile… we don’t hear sirens. Beyond scared,” Torres recalled.

All she could think of was how horrible an ending this was.

“Oh my God, you know that’s it for Hawaii nei,” Torres said. “So much for the state of aloha, we have just gotten wiped off of the face of the map. So much for all of the aloha we have given across the world over the years.”

Torres and Abellira are not alone. Hundreds, if not thousands across the state experienced the same thing they did.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Marvin Acklin had some suggestions for people coping with the aftermath.

“One of the best ways to deal with a negative event is to feel like there’s actually things that you can do to control your participation in it, your feelings about it, and what you’re going to do about it,” Acklin said. “In other words, enhance coping through preparation, education, and comfort.”

Dr. Acklin also suggested that parents talk to their children about what happened and develop a plan with them in case there ever is a real attack.

“Knowledge and preparation enhances coping skills in both children and adults,” Acklin explained.

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