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Officials' suicides raise psychological health concern
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China is paying more attention to the psychological health of officials in the earthquake-hit Sichuan Province after two people committed suicide.

"We have imposed compulsory measures for grass-roots officials to show we care about them. We told them they must take breaks during their relief work," Wei Hong, executive vice provincial governor, said at a press conference in Beijing on Friday.

He did not provide details about those measures, however, media reports have said officials in the quake zone have been ordered to take vacations and have been offered medical check-ups.

Psychological rehabilitation has become a major issue during the reconstruction project, as the 8.0-magnitude quake left more than 87,000 dead or missing and millions homeless.

He Zonghua, 40, director of the human resources and training department of the general office of Mianyang city government, committed suicide by jumping out a 15th-floor hotel room this Wednesday. According to a police investigation, He suffered from depression before he died. His colleagues said he complained of insomnia and bad health. He also appeared anxious and worried at work.

In October, a county agriculture and disaster relief director in the same city hung himself.

The emotional toll from the quake isn't just being shown in suicides.

A third official, Luo Shibin, 45, who was in charge of relocation in Pingwu County, died after an artery in his brain burst, due to overwork late last month, the government and doctors said.

"Most of our officials and people have gradually overcome the psychological shadow of the quake. A few are still dealing with psychological issues because the calamity caused huge losses for them," Wei said. "We are very sympathetic about the recent suicides."

Wei said the government has paid great attention to the psychological health of people and officials in quake-hit areas.

"Special lectures on psychological intervention have been arranged and more than 600 officials have received training over the past months," Wei said.

The provincial authorities have opened special clinics in hospitals at various levels in the quake zone and recruited more than 1,000 experts offering psychological services, he added.

(Xinhua News Agency November 21, 2008)

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