Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)
["China Exclusive: Psychological Services for China's Traumatized quake Survivors in Full Swing" - Xinhua headline]
MIANYANG, Sichuan, May 19 (Xinhua) - China's largest ever psychological service operation for survivors of a natural disaster is in full swing, a week after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the southwestern Sichuan Province.
In a temporary residence site for earthquake victims in west China's Mianyang City, Dr Wang Ningxia, a psychologist faced an eight-year-old girl Qiao Xi, who was traumatized and unable to speak after experiencing the tragic disaster.
Qiao Xi's mother lost four of her family including her son, Qiao Xi's elder brother, in the earthquake. The voluble girl lost vitality after that.
"Do you still want to go to school? Would you want to go back to your school?" the doctor asked.
The question won the first one-word response from the traumatized girl a week after she lost speech.
"Want," whispered the girl, who had been communicating with simple body languages of nodding for "yes" or shaking head for "no".
Doctor Wang said that the session with the girl had had some success. But not all the cases she met in the quake zone progressed.
"I tried in vain to communicate with a mother who lost her daughter in the earthquake. She could not face the mishap that happened. She neither cried nor ate anything," said Wang.
The doctor from the South West University of Science and Technology led 10 teachers and 34 students to carry out psychological service work in Mianyang City.
Wang took out a questionnaire she drafted, and pleaded with Xinhua's reporters to help submit it to authorities, who have the power to hand out the questionnaire among quake victims.
"The questionnaire would help psychological counsellors to locate victims who urgently need psychological treatment," said Wang.
There are at least 300 professional psychologists working in the quake zone, according to Xinhua's tally of medical staff sent by the Ministry of Health and a dozen of medical institutes around the country.
A group of psychologists led by Zhang Yuqing, associate professor from the Psychological Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has carried out counselling on 1,000 school children in Beichuan County, closest to the epicentre of the earthquake.
"We have taught the children some psychological knowledge and some methods to ease psychological stress," said Zhang, who also planned to meet injured victims and orphans.
Wang Ningxia said that most of psychologists working in the quake zone volunteered to join the task.
"This was the first time that we faced so many traumatized people. This is the first attempt at such a massive psychological operation in China. The work lacks overall coordination," said Wang.
She said that psychological therapy is urgently needed, since survivors are still gripped in horror, and by a sense of insecurity and solitude.
"They re-experienced the horrible scenes again and again in everyday nightmares or insomnia. The trauma may remain for two to 10 years," she said.
Zhang Kan, director of the Psychological Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that millions of quake victims, witnesses, rescuers and even reporters on the earthquake may suffer psychological trauma, and need counselling.
"Some people may not handle the helpless emotion, and suffer long- time panic, the feeling of setback and emotional dysphoria. Such patients may turn to liquor, cigarettes and drugs for comfort. Some may contemplate suicide or other extreme behaviour," said Zhang.
Thousands of volunteers from around the country have registered through local psychological service stations to go to the rescue front line. However, there is still a heavy shortage of professional psychologists, since the therapy is in an initial developing stage even in China's major cities.
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