The Chinese Psychological Society has set up a specialized group to support psychological relief work in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake. As President Hu Jintao emphasized in a speech on May 16, post-disaster mental health care is just as important as physical relief and reconstruction.
The psychological relief group will operate a program to provide mental-health consultation and care to survivors of the disaster. As one of its first initiatives, the group has suggested some guidelines to journalists working in disaster areas.
Interviews with children:
1. Try to avoid interviewing children, especially injured children.
2. If interviewing a child, get prior permission from both the child and his/her parents or guardians.
3. Interviewees' faces should be blurred if they agree to be interviewed on television.
4. Explain how the interview will be used and where it will be published.
5. Do not interview the same child more than once. (If the child has already been interviewed by another media organization, do not interview him/her.)
6. Show consideration for children's mental-health. Do not force children to repeatedly re-live painful experiences.
Interviews with experts and adult survivors:
1. Establish friendly relationships with experts; discuss the purpose of the interview before you start.
2. Always try to get an expert opinion.
3. Ask experts for data which can be quoted and published.
4. Focus each interview on one or two points and get detailed information on those points.
5. Check the information you are given is correct.
6. Keep victims' personal information confidential.
7. Establish contact with managers of organizations.
8. Interview experts doing relief and treatment work.
9. Protect survivors; give them the right to control the content and timing of interviews. 10. Avoid interviewing the same person many times over; repeated interviews may compound psychological damage caused by the disaster.
Reports should have positive and hopeful themes, for example:
1. How people are successfully fighting back against the disaster.
2. The responses of adults, teenagers and children to the earthquake:
3. Personal or family mental-health therapy and support.
4. The reconstruction of social support systems and networks.
5. Groups with special needs, such as old people, children and the disabled.
6. How relief staff, volunteers and medical staff are coping with the disaster.
Matters to pay attention to during the interview:
1. Ask positive questions, such as what kept you going under debris for such a long time?
2. Do not ask press interviewees on questions they are unwilling to answer.
3. Do not ask for painful details, such as to asking people who have lost a child how they themselves escaped.
Interviews should be well structured, rational, and scientific.
(China.org.cn by Wu Huanshu May 23, 2008)