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Victims & relief workers need psychological debriefing
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A little girl rescued.


A peasant victim from Sichuan Hongbai Town in front of his destroyed house.

The Sichuan earthquake has given many people – both victims and onlookers – varying amounts of internal trauma determined by each individual's psychological makeup. Some people are so affected that they cannot function normally.

How to solve these issues?

China.org.cn spoke with Tan Gangqiang, a psychologist on the Chongqing social psychology consulting committee.

What is psychological intervention? People become easily caught up in fear and anxiety when they have suffered something traumatic or experienced an accident or death, especially when they lose a family member. This emergency shock reaction will be intensified whenever another similar incident takes place. Psychological intervention is a way to help victims recover gradually from grief by intervening using supportive force. Treatment usually will last over 1 year.

Patients experiencing frequent nightmares and reliving vivid memories of an accident often feel insecure; some even hallucinate. Victims who have lost their relatives are inclined to isolate and resist communicating with others. They should be given more attention.

Non-professional consulting has negative effects Most of the volunteer psychological counselors around the nation are non-professional counselors. Their ability to treat trauma victims varies widely. Some ask inane questions while valuable remarks go unnoticed. If questioned inappropriately about feelings victims may feel that the counselor is prying.

Amateur volunteers may think quiet victims are too conservative. These "passionate" volunteers become overly "talkative" – when actually they're bothering victims who need silence. A more appropriate strategy would be to divert their depression by caressing them, helping them eat, or engaging them in discussions about their hobbies and interests.

Many victims need long-term post-traumatic stress treatment more than they need short-term consolation sessions. Traumatized victims usually suffer from isolation tendencies and post-traumatic stress after the disaster is long gone. Many of the earthquake victims are currently too confused to fully process their loss and grief.

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