Central Italy earthquake - since August 2016, psychological support and community empowerment

On the night of 24 August 2016, after a series of seismic events in the provinces of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno and Perugia, a 6.0 magnitude quake with its epicenter in the municipality of Accumoli caused 299 deaths and 388 injuries. Since 25 August 2016 Psy + Onlus has been present in the camp set up in Accumoli, making itself available, together with INTERSOS to ensure professional interventions in support of people who have suffered the earthquake, as well as their rescuers, through the constant presence of 2-4 volunteers in the Accumoli camp and the activation of a traveling team in charge of visiting the most isolated hamlets.


The operational-logistic experience of INTERSOS in the humanitarian field, integrated with the technical-scientific skills of Psy + Onlus, it has made it possible to implement Proximity - Immediacy - Expectancy - Simplicity processes, key elements in operating practice, in order to reduce the risks of post-traumatic diseases and to maximize the effectiveness of interventions.


  • Critical Incident Stress Management: interventions aimed at providing the victims of catastrophe with the opportunity to share their experiences and to start processing the emotional components of the experience. These interventions were aimed at both victims and their rescuers, confronted with important levels of fatigue and emotional stress.
  • Psychological First Aid, Defusing, Debriefing, Follow-up: the psychological first aid interventions have been modulated on the socio-cultural context and implemented starting from informal contact modalities, in order to guarantee the natural development of the helping relationship. Mass screening methods that are invasive and often iatrogenic have been carefully avoided.
  • Child Friendly Space: in the Accumoli camp, starting from 26 August and until Sunday 11 September, Psy + Onlus has set up a child-friendly space with Intersos, with teaching materials and activities, in order to offer: non-verbal processing opportunities; moments of listening and advice to parenting; observation of any critical issues to be addressed.
  • Community empowerment
    • support for the informal coordination of the craftsmen, oriented towards the establishment of a workforce consortium for reconstruction;
    • support for the resumption of the activities of the band of the municipality of Accumoli, identification and management of a rehearsal room inside the former Curzi school of San benedetto del Tronto, accompaniment for rehearsals and management for finding public dates with the participation of a colleague psychologist graduated in Sax at the Aquila Conservatory
    • support for activities self-organized by the Cittareale adolescent group that monitored the needs of the hamlets adjacent to Accumoli in the first days after the earthquake.
    • support for the creation of the “Accumoli in Gomitolo” knitwear group;
    • parenting support meetings;
    • opening and management of a study room for support in teaching activities during extra-school hours;
    • opening and management of a recreational-recreational room for teenagers hosted in the hotels of San benedetto del Tronto and Porto d'Ascoli.
The spaces made available for the above activities by Civil protection and managed by Psy + Onlus in coordination with other associations, were set up inside the former Curzi school, in via Camillo Golgi 1 in San Benedetto del Tronto.


In the days spent at the field set up by the Civil Protection in the area of ​​the Accumoli sports field, the volunteers of Psy + Onlus and the Intersos operators guaranteed 351 support interventions, the majority of which consisted of individual interventions aimed at containing the traumatic effects of the earthquake and to prevent the onset of consequent manifestations. Even the rescuers of different organizations were able to benefit from specialist advice and Intersos with Psy + was invited to participate in the coordination meetings of the operations at the COC of Accumoli, in charge of managing the emergency throughout the area in which numerous fractions are distributed .


Once the emergency was over, and in consideration of the difficult conditions of life in the tent cities, the affected populations were progressively transferred to hotels on the coast, in particular to San Benedetto del Tronto. Of course, both for mandatory reasons linked to work needs (e.g. breeding) and for more affective aspects (link with the territory, fear of looting ...) many people have not joined and will therefore be concentrated on the tent city of Accumoli waiting for container type modules. In this phase we therefore sent new resources to San Benedetto and gradually reduced our presence in Accumoli, in agreement with the Municipality of Accumoli and with the network of services of the SSN.

For people housed on the coast, the global functioning of individuals has been severely tested on several levels:
  • the return to school
  • the resumption (where possible) of work
  • the use of time
  • physical and psychological health care
  • the difficult management of temporariness

Below is a real-time report of the interventions carried out in San Benedetto del Tronto:

In light of the needs expressed by the affected population, Psy + Onlus and Intersos have mobilized to ensure the continuation of their interventions in the territory of San Benedetto del Tronto through:
  • Psychological support
  • Community empowerment
  • Orientation to Health Services (in situations that require taking charge)
  • Psychoeducational counseling services (schools and parents)

The activities mentioned above were maintained over time and in the first months of 2017 voluntary work was made possible also by a donation of solidarity from the Italy-China Foundation which allowed the reimbursement of expenses for the operators involved.

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Strengthening and consolidation of the activities in the project
"Let's rebuild people" 

 financed by

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under the patronage of

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From 31 March 2017, the project was further enhanced, thanks to the financing of MEDIAFRIENDS, which made it possible to define a 10,5-month programming schedule and to increase activities through:

  • Experiential - Expressive workshops
  • Mobile Unit (detection of psychological support needs and home visits)
  • Summer Camps for Minors (recreational and educational - therapeutic activities)

    OBJECTIVES OF THE "Let's rebuild people" PROJECT activated by InterSos and Psy + Onlus with the financing of media friends
    - Offer listening support and orientation to the population affected by the earthquake and to the operators involved in their assistance
    - Pay special attention to those at risk (in particular minors, but also the elderly, and subjects with vulnerabilities)
    - Promote spontaneous remission, full use of personal resources and consolidation of resilience
    - Contribute to the re-signification of the event
    - Contribute to existential continuity in the medium term (helping the NHS services and the integrated network of local services).

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The reception in the hotels will continue until summer 2017 and the next step towards temporary housing modules will be a further factor of unease and updating of traumatic experiences, therefore the duration of the needs for support and psychological orientation in support of public services has been estimated necessary and funded until February 2018 (possible extensions based on needs are being assessed).


Psy + Onlus operations, in partnership with InterSos, based on the funding obtained from Mediafriends Onlus, will be guaranteed until mid-February 2018 with the daily presence of 2 psychotherapists + 3 psychologists who will work in concert with educators dedicated to experiential / expressive laboratory activities aimed at overcoming traumatic experiences and psychological support. The services, mainly aimed at minors but extended to the entire population, will consist of listening / psychological support; mobile unit for monitoring psychological conditions for scattered hamlets / centers; experiential / expressive workshops; community empowerment activities; summer center for minors in the Accumoli area.

earthquake, Accumoli, emergency

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