CHINA Psychologists support victims' families


Psychologists support victims' families

10:56, March 28, 2022

Rescuers secured by safety ropes conduct search and rescue work at the plane crash site in Tengxian County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, March 25, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Psychologists are working closely with family members of the victims of flight MU5735, and have offered help to 357 relatives as of Sunday noon.

However, long-time psychological assistance and sustained support will be needed to help them recover from the trauma, experts said.

Ninety-nine psychologists are working in Wuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where the China Eastern Airlines jet crashed on March 21. They are divided into 12 teams, with 11 teams stationed in hotels where victims' relatives are staying and one at the crash site, said Yin Ping, the leader of the team of psychologists.

"A special team with two psychologists is helping each of the families and has been offering psychological counseling services all the way through," he said at a news conference in Wuzhou.

By Sunday noon, psychologists had offered professional counseling sessions 1,611 times.

Flight MU5735, with 132 people on board, crashed in a mountainous area after losing contact with air traffic controllers at 2:21 pm. All people on board were confirmed dead on Saturday night.

Yin said offering psychological counseling to the victims' family members is one of the key tasks after the tragedy. Counseling started the evening of the crash.

"It's been seven days. As many family members have started to accept the reality that they have lost their next of kin they're showing sorrowful emotions," Yin said.

Such feelings need to be understood and accepted, and people must accompany the relatives and help them release their pain, he said.

Although some relatives have left Wuzhou and returned home, psychological counseling will continue in the city, Yin said.

Zhu Zhuohong, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Psychology, said dealing with an air crash is "very special".

"Different from natural disasters, the aftermath (of an air crash) involves the search for remains, the identification of the cause of a crash and settlements of claims-all very complicated issues."

As long as these issues remain unfinished, the trauma will linger, he said in an interview with news website

He said family members of air crash victims usually have to go through stages of acute distress, release of anger, and depression before they finally accept the reality of the situation and start to recover.

"Without adequate psychological intervention, many people may suffer lasting psychological trauma because of the sudden loss of their loved ones," he said.

Wu Kankan, another psychologist with the institute, called for a support mechanism for psychologists in Wuzhou to enhance their capabilities to deal with problems they may not have encountered before. "Training should be organized for them as well," he said.

Relatives of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing eight years, are also offering support. On Sina Weibo they have started a hashtag called "words from family members of MH370 victims to next of kin of MU5735 victims", saying they are ready to help anytime they are needed.

Jiang Hui, whose mother was on board MH370, initiated the hashtag. He said he hopes family members of MU5735 victims do not have to suffer alone.

It's better for them to accept psychological intervention and help from psychologists, as having them present and listening to them will help the family members recover, he said.

The Beijing-bound MH370 left Kuala Lumpur in the early hours of March 8, 2014, with 239 people aboard, including 154 Chinese nationals. The flight vanished from radar screens and remains missing.

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