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Survivors face legacy of stress
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Some of the survivors of the May 12 earthquake are suffering from suicidal tendencies, sleeping problems, reccurring nightmares, and a reluctance to talk about the incident, a study shows.

The study was conducted in Pingwu and Qingchuan counties from Oct 4 to Oct 10, Wang Yiqiang, deputy chief of the Hangzhou No 7 Hospital in Zhejiang, said on Wednesday.

People in the quake-hit regions have a high incidence of psychological disorders, which could last for years, the study said.

It found people whose close relatives died in the tragedy, were also reluctant to leave their hometowns to find new jobs.

The Menghu community in Zhuyuan town, Qingchuan, has more than 700 quake survivors living in prefabricated houses.

They are divided into four groups.

In three groups, more than half have relatives who died in the quake, and only one in the other.

Almost no one in the three groups is looking for a job outside his or her hometown. In the other, practically all are, Cao Rifang, chief of the Mental Health Institute of Hangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

As relief to the region eases and aid workers begin to leave, survivors have started to feel lonely and disillusioned.

Some have ended up with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

One such victim, Dong Yufei, chief of the agriculture office of the Beichuan county Party committee, committed suicide on Oct 3.

The county Party committee said Dong hanged himself because he could not get over the loss of his 12-year-old son Dong Zhuang.

The pyschology study said some of the survivors also had suicidal tendencies because of PTSD.

"PTSD can be as harmful as cancer and AIDS," Wang Jianping, chief of the Jiande No 3 Hospital in Zhejiang, said.

About 20 percent of the survivors surveyed suffered from PTSD, he said.

Fu Weilin, a psychological counselor at a high school in Pingwu, said the school had 1,300 students but he was the only counselor.

He said many people giving psychological advice to students were not qualified.

The study will be reviewed by a panel of experts, and a report will be submitted to the Ministry of Health.

(China Daily October 20, 2008)

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