Counseling road to recovery for deeply traumatized survivors

2008-05-21 03:18:34 GMT       2008-05-21 11:18:34 (Beijing Time)        China Daily      

Chengdu doctors were finally able to treat a high school student for earthquake-related injuries after an hour of coaxing and calming.

Sixteen-year-old Liu Liu spent several hours trapped beneath the rubble of his collapsed Duijiangyan school after last Monday's quake in Sichuan.

When he was eventually pulled out, Liu refused to enter any buildings.

"I would rather die, if you send me in," he cried madly.

Psychiatrist Xiao Jun immediately came to comfort the boy.

"Son, everything is all right. We all live together," said Xiao. "You must trust me and trust the State and the government. All the people are helping you, and you will be fine."

Liu is one of thousands suffering from post-traumatic stress following the May 12 quake.

Xiao and three other psychiatrists at People's Hospital in Chengdu are swamped, providing counseling to more than 1,000 patients dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy, a hospital official said.

"Many victims have shown varying degrees of psychological problems, especially the children," Yang Jianying, an official with the hospital told China Daily.

"The crisis counseling should reach the children soon, the earlier the better, otherwise, they might develop serious phobia or anxiety in the future," said Yang.

She said demand for counseling has soared greatly in recent days as more patients have been transferred to the hospital from other places.

"We need to work with community-based agencies in the affected areas to provide counseling for more people," said Yang.

The Chengdu office of the All-China Women's Federation, an organization dedicated to women's rights, launched a crisis counseling campaign immediately following the quake.

The office announced three hotlines to recruit volunteer counselors and within 24 hours, a team of 80 mental health workers and educators was formed from more than 500 candidates.

The volunteers were sent to neighboring Dujiangyan and Pengzhou to provide face-to-face psychological counseling.

In the village of Pengzhou, Granny Liao wept day and night, refusing to eat after seeing her son-in-law crushed to death when her home collapsed in the quake.

A volunteer from the federation listened to the grandmother as she told her story between sobs. The volunteer offered Liao reassurance and when her tears dried, suggested Liao rebuild her home with help from the government.

Finally, a smile slowly swept across Liao's face.

An additional 20 psychologists from Kunming Green Island Counseling Center in Yunnan province have also arrived to Chengdu to help victims cope.

The demand for counseling is tremendous.

Experts also say the situation is further worsened because victims are stuck waiting for treatment, which is extremely difficult for people to do when suffering from severe stress and emotional upheaval.

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