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China's Xinjiang offers mental health support to battle trauma amid COVID-19

(Xinhua)    10:21, August 13, 2020

Dr. Ma Rui's words are considered to have a healing impact on residents of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

At a time when the region is fighting a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections, the practicing psychologist has helped soothe many anxious minds either under quarantine or treatment.

After a 24-year-old resident in the regional capital of Urumqi tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-July, Xinjiang has since tightened epidemic prevention and control measures to contain the spread of the virus.

As of Tuesday, Xinjiang had 535 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 131 asymptomatic cases, and 14,569 people were still under medical observation.

Ma was among the first batch of psychologists dispatched to a designated COVID-19 treatment hospital to offer mental health support.

"We fully understand the anxiety and fear among patients. Their mental stress should be eased through a better understanding of the disease," said Kang Yan, a professor at West China Hospital of Sichuan University.

"When I was diagnosed with COVID-19, I was afraid that I would never see my family again and encountered sleepless nights," said Wang Jing. "I was finally able to calm down after chatting with Dr. Ma every day. Now I have almost recovered and ready to return home."

Psychological counseling has been a critical part of COVID-19 treatment in China. It has also proven effective in relieving stress among those under quarantine, or people who are over-worried about the situation.

Chen Xiaoying, director of the psychological treatment center at the Urumqi fourth people's hospital, said patients who receive psychological support are more cooperative in treatment.

About 4 million residents in Urumqi have avoided unnecessary outdoor activities as part of efforts to reduce possible cross-infection. Thus, some residents have experienced mental health issues after being confined to indoors for a prolonged period.

Wang Xiaozhen, a certified psychological consultant, has seen surging inquiries lately. "Most of the people have never experienced such long-term isolation, and from my experience in post-disaster psychological assistance, I know how much help they might need in this situation," said Wang.

She even had a two-hour video call with a deaf-mute woman using sign language to mediate her family conflict.

From mid-July to Aug. 3, Wang has helped over 60 people, and she constantly gets WeChat messages from those requiring assistance.

Hundreds of psychological counselors and psychologists like Wang have offered to join hands to battle the mental trauma triggered by COVID-19 in Xinjiang. The local government has launched 10 hotlines to answer queries from the public.

Echoes of laughter emanating from the hospital wards have become a positive sign in Xinjiang's anti-epidemic fight. Daily new confirmed cases have begun to drop and from July 15 to Tuesday, 264 people were discharged from the hospital after recovery, and another 89 asymptomatic cases were dismissed from medical observation in Xinjiang.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Bianji)

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