Mental Health Problems among Children One-Year after Sichuan Earthquake in China: A Follow-up Study
On May 12, 2008, a destructive earthquake registering 8.0 on the Richter scale struck Sichuan Province, southwest China. Beichuan County was the epicenter which was one of the areas nearly completely destroyed by the earthquake. In Beichuan, about 15000 people died and 3000 people were missing. Specially, the earthquake took 1587 students’ and 214 teachers’ lives from the elementary and middle schools there. The main purpose of the study was to provide a better understanding of mental health problems and associated risk factors among children after earthquake.
Three hundred and thirty grades 3–5 children completed the questionnaire of disaster –related experience and the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children-Alternate Version (TSCC-A). The first survey was carried out six months after the earthquake, and the second one was carried out six months later. The measurements and methodology applied in the two sessions were identical.
The prevalence rates of the problems at two time-points were 23.3% and 22.7% for anxiety, 14.5% and 16.1% for depression, and 11.2% and 13.4% for PTSD, respectively. Among demographic variables, no significant age difference existed, while it was found that 6 months after the earthquake, symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD were significantly more common among students in grades 4 and 5 than those in grade 3, Initial exposure to death, bereavement and extreme fear were significant predictive factors for the occurrence of anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Findings of this study suggest that posttraumatic mental health problems after natural disaster in children may have reached epidemic proportions and remain high for a long period. Psychologist and social workers should pay more attention to children who experienced more traumatic stresses and provide appropriate mental health interventions. Implications and limitations of these findings were discussed.
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