Team of psychologists offer special counseling

Team of psychologists offer special counseling
People search for belongings in the rubble of their collapsed house at Longtoushan, in China's southwest Yunnan province on August 6, 2014. The death toll from an earthquake that devastated a remote region of China jumped to nearly 600 people, authorities said, as volunteer rescuers were warned away.

CHINA - Hours after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck Yunnan province, a team of eight psychologists were rushing to the quake's epicenter in Ludian county to provide counseling.

After contacting four hospitals in the county, the psychologists split into three teams to provide one-on-one counseling for quake victims.

One of the victims was Zhang Zhenfang, a 14-year-old girl from Longquan. Nine of her family members died in the earthquake, leaving only Zhang, her mother and three younger cousins. After the tragedy, she stopped eating and speaking for more than 30 hours.

But after the psychologists came to talk to her, she started to open up.

"When the house began to shake, I managed to run out, but my younger cousin was trapped inside. I tried to dig him out with my hands but failed. He did not make it, and I thought this was my fault," she said.

Zhang said the sight of experts in army uniforms comforted her greatly.

"They told me that all my dead relatives would want to see me strong," she said.

Xue Lian, one of the psychologists, said their priority is to provide a channel for victims to release their emotions.

"Speaking out relieves a lot of pressure. Sometimes, they just need reliable people to listen to them," she said.

Cai Guangjing, 70, talked to the team after the earthquake, which killed three of her daughters and two grandsons. She also lost her life's savings, 60,000 yuan ($9,700), when her house collapsed in the quake.

"I have only 20 yuan with me now with no home and nowhere to go. What can I do in the future?" she said.

By Friday, the group had provided psychological counseling to 49 patients in Ludian county hospitals. They will stay in the county for another month.

Yan Yiqi contributed to this story.

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