Kyle MacDonald is an experienced psychotherapist and regular co-host on the NewstalkZB mental health awareness show The Nutters Club.

Kyle MacDonald: Why it's okay to be scared about the quakes

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Feeling affected by the quake made me think about how fear works, and how we can best respond to those living through this terrible tragedy. Image / NZ Herald
Feeling affected by the quake made me think about how fear works, and how we can best respond to those living through this terrible tragedy. Image / NZ Herald

When the Kaikoura quake struck just after midnight on Monday morning I was on air with Mike King hosting the Nutters Club. Not only did we feel the quake, we quickly had to abandon our show to take calls from distressed and worried New Zealanders all around the country and provide emergency updates to listeners.

As we talked to people, and watched the timeline on GeoNet light up with quake after quake, I began to feel deeply worried about being two stories up in a concrete building, about my family, and about what had happened in Kaikoura and was happening to our country.

After the show it was difficult to sleep. I found myself glued to social media not just to get the updates but also to feel connected to what was going on, to - in some way -understand the experience.

However, as Auckland awoke and I spoke with friends and workmates about what had happened, most had slept through it. While they were clearly concerned, it didn't seem to have the same impact on them.

I don't wish to over state this. I wasn't there. But feeling affected by it as I was made me think about how fear works, and how we can best respond to those living through this terrible tragedy, of homes being destroyed and the ongoing stress of the earth beneath your feet no longer being trustworthy.

The first thing we can do is let them be scared, let them express themselves, and not talk about the need for "resilience."

No one wants to feel afraid, but it is also an incredibly useful emotion. It makes us listen to Tsunami warnings, make choices to move to safety and protect our loved ones. It also brings us together.

So let's not preach about resilience, it's tantamount to declaring people need to "get over it". Instead, let's expect vulnerability, and the need to talk about and express the fear and uncertainty.

And as we did with Christchurch, let's keep pushing for increased psychological support for those that need it. And make sure we celebrate the spontaneous acts of kindness and compassion from our nation and communities.

As an Aucklander, and as someone who wasn't there, I hereby pledge to keep trying to understand, to keep making space for those from the quake afflicted areas, and never say we're sick of hearing about it.

It's okay to be afraid. Just make sure you keep reaching out. And for our part, I hope we all will keep trying to extend a helping hand in whatever way we can.

To donate to the Red Cross Kaikoura Earthquake Appeal click here.

Follow Kyle on Facebook and check out his website here.

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Kyle MacDonald is an experienced psychotherapist and regular co-host on the NewstalkZB mental health awareness show The Nutters Club.

Kyle MacDonald is in private practice at the Robert Street Clinic in Auckland. For more: psychotherapy.org.nz or his Social Anxiety resource site: overcomingsocialanxiety.com.

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