Sichuan quake survivors lead new lives, but recovery still far away

13:34, May 12, 2011      

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Liu Juhua has no idea about when the nightmare will stop haunting her, or whether it ever will.

"It usually starts with gigantic rocks rolling down the mountains and the ground convulsing, and then floods submerge schools and homes," she said, recalling a dream resembling the powerful earthquake that devastated her hometown in May 2008.

Liu used to live in the old town of Beichuan County, China's only Qiang Autonomous county in southwestern Sichuan Province. The small town was virtually obliterated by the magnitude-8.0 earthquake.

After the quake, more than 80,000 people were declared dead or missing, including eight people from the extended family of Liu, who serves as a public servant in the county's population and family planning commission.

"I can't help but ponder if the soul doesn't exist, why I often dreamed about my departed family members and friends around Spring Festival and Tomb-sweeping Day during the past three years?" Liu said.

Liu has witnessed hundreds of bereaved families regained hope of life after having new babies, and the local government is providing bereaved mothers who conceive again with free reproductive services.

She sincerely feels happy for them, however, "As for me, I simply can't move on," She said, although her son, husband and parents escaped death, and her family had moved into a well-decorated apartment in Beichuan's new county town, which was built about 23 km from the old town.

Liu said she might have mental troubles, but never sought medical help. Instead, she resorted to "self-treatment", as she simply persuaded herself to step out of the shadows and relaxed on the weekends.

Liu is only one of the numerous people who have turned over a new leaf of life, but are still unable to leave all the sorrow behind in quake-ravaged Sichuan.

As many bereaved people have remarried and moved into permanent homes from tents and prefabricated houses, they are gradually returning to normal lives, said Ren Xuemei, deputy director of the mental health service center of Beichuan.

Sichuan Vice Governor Wei Hong said in mid-April that all reconstruction projects would be fully completed by September this year.

Wei promised that living conditions and the level of economic and social development in quake-hit areas would reach or surpass that prior to the disaster.

"However, they still have a long way to go before achieving a full recovery," Ren said, adding that they found that most people felt reluctant to accept one-on-one psychological [email protected] After the quake, many people suffered from symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, insomnia, anxiety and depression, Ren said. "But they equated mental stress with insanity."

Beichuan's mental health service center was founded on April 25, 2009, five days after Feng Xiang, who once served as vice director of the county's publicity department and lost his eight-year-old son in the quake,committed suicide in his home.

Feng's death brought the mental predicament of quake survivors under the spotlight.

To enable the mental health services to reach all 230,000 residents in Beichuan, the center established 60 service stations in the county, with 32 in schools, 22 in medical institutions and six in residential communities.

The workers usually provide group counseling, with 20 to 40 people at a time, according to Ren, who is in charge of training teachers, grassroots officials and social workers who work in service stations.

These efforts bore fruit, Ren said, noting "Now they are able to straightforwardly tell me their problems, such as agitation and insomnia."
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Source: Xinhua
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