Injuries to hearts and minds, not only physical

Updated: 2013-07-24 07:20

By Mu Qian (China Daily)

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Injuries to hearts and minds, not only physical

On Sunday evening, I was tasting assorted snacks at Lanzhou's night market and planning for a trip to the desert in the northern part of Gansu province.

The next day I was in Minxian county covering an earthquake.

Natural disasters have the power of changing people's destinies overnight. The earthquake's impact on me is not worth mentioning considering the 95 people who lost their lives and the hundreds that were injured.

I will never forget the tears of the old woman who lost her three grandchildren or the powerlessness I felt when I heard a daughter crying for her missing father.

Although this earthquake is much smaller than the one that struck Wenchuan, Sichuan province, five years ago, each life lost is an unbearable tragedy for family members and friends.

The government's alleviation work has been fast and efficient. Police, paramilitary forces, the army and medical professionals from both local hospitals and nearby cities are working together to save lives and people's possessions.

The seriously injured have been transported in helicopters to Lanzhou's hospitals, and those with minor injuries are being treated in their villages by doctors and nurses who work 24 hours a day.

One doctor in the quake-hit Yongxing village told me that apart from the physically injured, many have psychological trauma, especially those who have lost loved ones. As a physician, he can only offer his condolences.

Spiritual treatment is still rare in China. There seems to be little systematic research, and professionals are hard to find.

When the Wenchuan earthquake hit, we saw a lot of media coverage about courageous people who fought back their sadness to help others. I believe many people are not so strong, and even the heroes we saw on TV did not always appear heroic.

In Gansu, I saw several elderly women cry in defeat, simultaneously calling for their lost loved ones and expressing their sorrow. It sounded like something between crying and singing. I guessed it was a method of catharsis as crying seems to make people more calm.

Those who do not cry are probably more worrisome.

Many volunteers from nearby areas are trying to comfort the bereft, helping in any way they can.

But spiritual treatment for victims of natural disasters is long-term work, and more professionals are needed. What challenges will the victims face in three months, half a year, or even a year?

When we can better answer these questions, we will be able to minimize the impact of natural disasters.

(China Daily USA 07/24/2013 page4)