Chinese psychiatrists are using the near-death experiences (NDE) of victims of the mammoth earthquake in Tangshan 30 years ago to help people through similar traumas today.
They believe the experiences of survivors of the quake, which claimed 240,000 lives and razed the city of 1.3 million, are helpful for disaster relief efforts and for those dealing with failed suicide attempts.
Feng Zhiying, a psychiatrist who has been specialized in NDE research for nearly 20 years, has begun, with his colleagues, to put their research findings into clinical use.
They questioned 81 survivors - 43 male and 38 female - from the Tangshan earthquake, in which 164,000 people were seriously injured, including 3,817 who became paraplegics.
Seventy-six of those studied were paraplegic.
Feng said it was the biggest study of its kind in the world and had many practical applications.
People threatened by death in natural disasters or accidents were easily frightened and panicked, which would consume their energy substantially and worsen their condition.
NDE could be used to train people on what to expect in a disaster and help those suffering from a major physical trauma to save energy until rescued, Feng said.
In psychiatric treatment, pictures and letters about near-death experiences could help those with suicidal ideas or failed suicide attempts improve their value of life, Feng noted.
Knowledge about NDE-influenced character changes would be helpful for treating related psychological problems, he added.
Comparing their NDE study with those done abroad, Feng and his colleagues found that religious and non-religious people had similar near-death experiences.
Feng cited the case of a 23-year-old girl then surnamed Liu, who was paralysed when her house collapsed in the earthquake.
She described her near-death experience: "When I was buried under the house, my thoughts were very clear and sped up. Joyful memories flashed through, including laughing and joking with my friends as a child, affectionate moments with my boyfriend and receiving awards in my factory."
Analytical findings show half of those surveyed had flashbacks of their pasts when they approached death.
"The near-death experience may be influenced by mentality, education, occupation and marriage," Feng said.
Source: China Daily