URUMQI: Students who need help in dealing with the emotional scars left behind after the July 5 riot in Urumqi will be able to get it at school.
With the start of the new school term Monday, children in the regional capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region were offered psychological intervention.
Teachers at primary and high schools in Urumqi received training on psychological intervention during the summer holidays so they could help students struggling with memories of the riot that left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured.
Zhu Rui, 16, from Urumqi No 1 middle school, said: "We were given group therapy on our first day back at school, and, if I need it, I can now talk to a psychologist specially designated by our school."
A girl from No 8 middle school in Urumqi said: "We had our first-day speech on ethnic unity and the school has promised us sessions of therapy in the near future."
According to a plan prepared by the Urumqi Education Bureau, the psychological intervention will first target students who were directly affected, including those who lost family members in the riot. Those who witnessed the riot will come second and those who were impacted by images on television will come third.
"The psychological trauma caused by the riot will affect students for their entire lives if it is not dealt with in the early stages," said Lin Yi, deputy director of Urumqi school health care center.
Lin said students should be given opportunities to vent their negative emotions and pour out their anguish.
"That's why we allocate psychiatrists to schools, as well as provide training to qualified teachers, so any student in need can be helped," Lin said. "They will play a very important role in helping students emerge from the trauma."
The psychological intervention will be delivered through one-on-one conseling, group therapy and seminars.
Zhang Zhibin, director of the psychological health center with an Urumqi-based People's Liberation Army hospital, said the riot traumatized most of Urumqi's 3.5 million residents "both physically and mentally".
Meng Xinzhen, a physician with Zhang's psychological health center, said timely outreach work was crucial.
"Studies show that man-made disasters can lead to stronger and longer mental trauma on people than natural disasters. So, I think psychological intervention is indispensable for Urumqi residents," Meng said.
"The July 5 riot has made me realized how important it is for people from different ethnic backgrounds to understand each other," said Li Lei, headmaster of Urumqi No 53 primary school.
"And language is the key."
That's why the headmaster decided to give his students, the majority of which are Han, as well as the school's teachers, daily Uygur language lessons, in an attempt to eliminate communication barriers between Han and Uygur students in the coming school term.
"So they can say 'Hi' to their Uygur friends in Uygur and say even more, everyone needs to make the effort," Li said. By Cai Ke (China Daily) Updated: 2009-09-01 08:21