China offers psychological assistance to public amid coronavirus outbreak

By Wang Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 10, 2020
Adjust font size:
China's National Health Commission holds a press conference in Beijing on the nation's provision of social services and psychological assistance amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, Feb. 3, 2020. [Photo by Dong Ning/]

The outbreak of the novelcoronavirus pneumonia has caused panic and anxiety, triggering overblown psychological reactions or even unfounded fears. As such, the battle against the coronavirus pneumonia outbreak should be on both the medical and psychological fronts. Currently, efforts are being made, on the governmental and non-governmental levels, to help the public quell their anxiety and maintain good mental health amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"Since the outbreak, whenever my son coughs or displays normal cold symptoms, I feel so uneasy that I can't get to sleep. Do I have a mental disorder? "

"How can a family member comfort their loved ones who are being quarantined? "

"I feel so insecure without face masks, what should I do? "

These are some of the many questions that came up during a public live-streaming lecture on Feb. 7. Li Xiaolong, a psychotherapist from the Wuhan Mental Health Center (Wuhan Psychological Hospital), responded to audiences' questions concerning psychological problems caused by the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak and offered advice on how to maintain good mental health in the face of the crisis.

"Avoid exposing yourself to a constant stream of negative information. Turn to scientific sources of information and stick to facts. Don't imagine the situation to be worse than it really is. Be aware of your emotional state and seek professional psychological help if you feel overwhelmed," Li advised.

Apart from Li Xiaolong, other psychological consultants and mental health experts from renowned hospitals or medical schools have also done "live" broadcasts on various online platforms, providing psychological advice to the public.

As China continues to take tough measures to curb the spread of the virus, negative psychological reactions are beginning to set in. Medical staff face enormous mental pressures due to overwork, social isolation and the high risks of infection from their exposure. Media outlets as well as the government's strict quarantine measures have also sparked fear and anxiety among the citizens.

"If psychological assistance or intervention are not provided in time,consequences ranging from the decrease in immunity against the virus to emotional and psychological traumamay arise. It may result in a negative impact on society or even mass panic," said Qiao Zhihong, professor at the faculty of Psychology at the Beijing Normal University (BNU).

As such, the battle against the coronavirus pneumonia outbreak should be on both the medical and psychological fronts. On Jan. 27, 2020, the National Health Commission of China published the national guidelines for psychological crisis intervention on the 2019-nCoV outbreak.

According to a notice from the State Council's joint prevention and control work mechanism released on Feb. 2, local governments are required to set up psychological assistance hotlines at the provincial and city levels to help address public mental health concerns triggered by the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

The mental health hotline run by the Wuhan Mental Health Center (Wuhan Psychological Hospital) is a free official hotline that offers psychological counseling to the public. This hotline, which has been in operation for over 20 years recently extended its working hours from Feb. 5. Now over 150 volunteers take turns to answer calls and offer advice round the clock, 7 days a week. 

Currently, almost all the provinces in China have launched and announced free official psychological assistance hotlines to provide mental health services to people who face various trauma due to the virus outbreak. The public can now access these hotline numbers of different provinces and cities through various WeChat mini-programs.

Aside from the psychological counseling hotlines set up by official agencies, universities also play a role in fighting psychological trauma. The BNU has taken the lead in this effort.

Since Jan. 27, the BNU's faculty of Psychology as well as its Student Counseling Service Center jointly launched a program to set up mental health hotlines as well as offer online counseling services to people going through psychological distress due to the coronavirus outbreak. The hotlines and counseling services operate from 6 a.m. to midnight every day, and their 300 professional counselors are reported to have helped thousands of people from around the country.

Wei Wei graduated from the BNU and now works as a teacher at the mental health education center of the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University (ZCMU). Upon hearing the news that counselor volunteers were urgently needed, she volunteered to become a telephone counselor. 

"Our team is divided into the hotline group and online counseling group. A crisis intervention group was added later. After receiving some training, I started to answer the hotline calls. Each shift is three hours and each counseling session lasts about 30 minutes. I received 8 phone calls back-to-back the first time I was on duty from 6 to 9 a.m. on Jan. 27," Wei said. "The consultation calls I received were mainly from regular citizens who were not infected but were going through anxiety. For some people who had mental illnesses before, being constantly exposed to news reports about the virus and stuck at home every day aggravated their symptoms."

While Wei believed that counselors like her can't solve every problem, they have helped alleviate the concerns of many people affected by the crisis. "For some of the more complicated cases, psychological intervention over the phone was not that effective. But in most cases, those who called in told me that their anxiety was relieved just by verbalizing it to someone. They then began to focus on what they could control rather than worry all day," Wei said.

Wang Bin, the deputy head of the bureau for disease control and prevention of the National Health Commission said in a press conference on Feb. 3 that during such a special period of epidemic prevention and control, it is very important for everyone to maintain a rational and objective mood. "Optimism and self-confidence is the most powerful immunity," he said.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:    
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from