Experts attribute social stress to school attacks

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A leading U.S. disaster psychologist said modern social stress may result in recent consecutive attacks against school and kindergarten children in China.

Prof. Joshua Miller, chair of Social Welfare Policy and Services Sequence at Smith College of the United States, joined long distance to a tele-talk show Friday on CNC World, a new global satellite news television launched by Xinhua.

The stress brought by rapid social changes in China unsettled people, created tension, and caused mental illnesses, Prof. Miller said in the talk show.

Five attacks against school and kindergarten children took place in China since late March, one of which caused eight deaths.

"The string of school attacks occur when society causes stress on people, like rapid social change, mass migrations, increasing disparities in wealth and weakening of traditions," Prof. Miller said.

He also said attacking children was a way the stressed people call for attention and help.

Prof. Miller, who provided psychological consultations to people after 9/11 attack in New York City in 2001, was invited by CNC World hostess Ma Guihua into the China View talk show, together with Dr. Han Buxin, research fellow with the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Han echoed Prof. Miller, saying that the attacks reflected stress and social conflicts that could not be ignored.

Dr. Han said people suffering from mental disorder could also attack people, but the suspects of recent cases made careful plans. He also said these attacks, though they happened in short intervals, were not related.

However, Prof. Miller said the first school attack might impress some mentally disordered people as a way to attract attention and to express anger, and therefore induced them to imitate.

"People usually believe children are safe at school, while recent assaults violate the trust, frighten parents, and shake the heart of the society," Prof. Miller said.

Both experts agreed that monitoring the mentally ill, which the Chinese government was doing after the school attacks, could help reduce such cases, as this social group was inclined to threaten campus security.

Prof. Miller said, "It's important for the mentally ill to get treatment. Without it they feel themselves out of control and isolated. So more services to this group of people could help children and their parents in the long term."

Dr. Han said psychological therapy could alleviate the social stress to some extent, but extending monitoring and treatment across the whole country would be unfeasible.

"According to my study two years ago, in China about two to three percent of the people were facing the challenge of mental disorders. Considering the country's population of 1.3 billion, the total number of mental patients is too big for the government to handle." he said.

He said regular mental checkups could prevent mental distress, while telling people how to release pressure was also a precaution against stress-caused attacks.

Prof. Miller said to reduce campus attacks, government and communities should help schools strengthen security system in a way that would create less alarm and fear in children.

Global audience might view the 20-minute talk show, China View: Campus Security Concern, via Asia-Pacific Satellite-6 at 134 degrees east longitude, with parameters set as 6065 MHz/3840 MHz. It can also be viewed at its website,

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