SOME security personnel of Ayala Center Cebu underwent stress debriefing sessions yesterday following the fire that hit the mall’s Metro Ayala department store last week.
The debriefing was conducted by the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) Cebu Chapter.
“This is something that is really needed since they are the frontliners and they were affected by the incident,” said Cynthia Potencioso, PMHA’s program officer.
Although there are around 150 mall security personnel, only around 60 of them attended the session which was done inside an area of the mall which was not affected by the fire.
Potencioso, a social worker, said it was their group that reached out to the management of the mall to do the stress debriefing which she explained, should be done immediately after a disaster or emergency.
A fire hit Metro Ayala last January 5. It lasted for almost 67 hours.
Since then, the rest of Ayala Center Cebu, including the main mall, have been closed for maintenance checks.
In a post on its Facebook account yesterday, the mall’s management said they still needed to do some dismantling before they can reopen to the public.
“The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) recommended that a damaged portion of the Metro Department Store building, which is right beside the building of the main mall, will have to be dismantled and removed before we open,” the statement read.
“As safety is our primary consideration, the mall will remain closed until further notice. We ask for your continued patience and understanding,” it further read.
Jeanette Japzon, corporate communications manager of Cebu Holdings Inc., which manages the mall, said that they have been keeping their tenants updated about the situation inside the mall.
According to Potencioso, the mall’s security guards said they were worried when the fire was still ongoing.
“Since they are the frontliners, they could also experience trauma. Among their main concerns is that they were afraid that they would lose their jobs because of the fire,” she said.
But later on, during the group discussions, she said the security personnel were able to express themselves and said they really wanted to save the mall in order for them to keep their jobs.
Among those present to do the debriefing were five social workers including Potencioso, a psychiatrist, a psychology graduate and two psychology interns.
“They were able to express their feelings, the experiences they had. They were very positive. In the first part, they were so quiet, but towards the end, they were laughing and sharing light moments,” she recalled.
Potencioso reiterated the need for stress debriefings on affected people following a disaster or calamity. Trauma from these experiences, she said, can cause more serious mental health issues.
She said that PMHA Cebu is available to provide support for this kind of intervention.