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China mourns suicide official, starts new psychological aid for quake-zone officials
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20:38, April 22, 2009

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A memorial service for an official who committed suicide in quake-devastated Beichuan County was held Wednesday, while experts urged more psychological aid for officials under the pressure of the demands of reconstruction.

Feng Xiang, 33, vice director of the public affairs department, hanged himself on Monday. His 7-year-old son was killed in last year's massive earthquake in south China's Sichuan province.

As per Feng wishes, his cremains were buried under a tree of Qushan Primary School where his son, Feng Hanmo, was also buried. Many officials cried at the ceremony.

Feng was the county's second official to commit suicide. Dong Yufei, 40, the agriculture commission head and disaster relief office director of Beichuan, hanged himself in October. Dong lost his 12-year-old son and other relatives in the quake.

"More than 400 county officials died in the quake, and 90 percent of the surviving officials lost their families. We are facing pressure from inner pain and the heavy job of reconstruction," said Jing Dazhong, Beichuan's county head.

Experts attributed the deaths and suicides of some quake zone officials partially to anxiety and overwork.

A survey conducted by Sichuan university showed more than 400,000 people are suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). More than 40,000 of those suffering from PTSD are in danger of committing suicide, said Zhang Wei, deputy president of the West China Hospital under Sichuan University.

He led a two-year project to conduct crisis intervention for quake survivors in Sichuan.

The project will train 10,000 doctors on PTSD and send 800 to 1,000 technical staff to county-level schools and hospitals across the province.

"PTSD is a disease. It cannot be cured through short courses or rest. The sufferers must be put under professional and continuous treatment," Zhang said.

The Beichuan government will continue offering mental health assistance to officials, especially to those who showed signs of depression, said Feng Bin,

The aid includes training courses on mental health guidance, health examinations, talk therapy, vacations and sports, he said.

The Sichuan government dispatched groups last year to 10 of the worst-hit counties to relieve officials' mental stress and ensure every official took holidays. The government also spent funds in improving the work and living conditions of the officials.

Experts admitted China still lacks mental health professionals and staff trained in handling PTSD.

Zhan plans to spend 10 year or even longer researching and adjusting treatment programs to help survivors with emotional disorders.

"We are trying to train more people within two years, but mental health assistance in the quake zones needs more time."

Source: Xinhua

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