"Psychological aid to earthquake affected areas should last for 20 years," said Zhang Kan, director of the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IPCAS).
"Secondary psychological trauma has appeared in Lang Zheng, the "salute kid" and Jiang Xiaojuan, a woman who fed breast milk to babies in affected areas," said Zhang, who had just returned to Beijing with his fellow IPCAS colleagues.
Lang Zheng is a three-year-old boy who saluted soldiers in the standard Young Pioneer manner just as they rescued him from the ruins. His patriotic behavior made him an instant celebrity across the nation.
Jiang Xiaojuan is a 29-year-old police officer and also mother of a 6-month-old boy. She took it upon herself to breast-feed several infants who were separated from their mothers or orphaned by the devastating earthquake on May 12.
Zhang noted that the constant recollection of their experiences had driven them both to the edge of insanity; they are now refusing interviews. Many students from Beichuan Middle School have also shown similar symptoms of psychological disturbance.
"A few people carried out some rather rough measures," Zhang said. "They made children in affected areas write down their experiences and the names of their dead family members. After these children finished writing, crying as they wrote, they simply tore up the papers and walked off."
Zhang noted that about 20 percent of the quake victims needed psychological consultation.
"Even if symptoms only appear in only 1 percent of victims, that total comes to 50,000 to 60,000 traumatized victims," he noted.
Although there are currently over 2,000 people engaged in providing psychological aid to quake affected areas, the grassroots areas are still lacking help in both human resources and the necessary psychological materials.
The IPCAS suggested that a long-term psychological aid station be built in these affected areas. The first batch would include 10 such stations. One has already been established in Mianzhu. Zhang also called for the Department of Education to help the children get back to school as soon as possible, because it's easier for experts to perform group counseling in schools.
In a related development, a public welfare activity named "I Need Love" was jointly initiated by IPCAS, the Center for Youth and Children of CCTV and the Shanghai Zeng'ai Foundation. This activity calls for the public to donate comic books to children in quake-affected areas. An estimated 30,000 comic books will be sent out no later than Children's Day on June 1.
Expert observations have proven that comic books are very useful in children's psychological treatment. But such books are currently lacking in those quake-affected areas. Wang Ying, the general manager of CCTV Animation Co., Ltd, said that his company would supply the needed comic books with appropriate imagery to help relieve their sadness and fear.
(China.org.cn by Yan Pei, May 30, 2008)