Chinese city builds public psychological service system to improve social governance
By Bi Jingjin, People’s Daily
Zhumadian city in central China’s Henan province has established an effective public psychological service system to facilitate social governance, achieving rich fruits in such aspects of social services as aiding people with disabilities, poverty alleviation, education, as well as marriage and relationship.
“Today, I counseled three expectant mothers and mediated the problems of four young couples who are seeking divorce,” Liu Xiaohe, a social worker providing psychological services at a marriage and childbearing service center in Xiping county of Zhumadian city, wrote in a journal.
As of November 2020, Zhumadian city had more than 3,000 psychological consultation rooms, covering most of the departments, schools, hospitals, and marriage and childbearing institutions in various counties, townships, and villages of the city.
The city has successfully brought public psychological services into various aspects of people’s lives, according to Chen Xing, secretary of the CPC Zhumadian municipal committee.
However, the results didn’t come easy. As an innovation in social governance in China, the public psychological service system had to be built from scratch.
“When we started to introduce psychological services into our work in 2016, it was like crossing the river by feeling the stones as we didn’t have sufficient manpower or material resources,” said Wang Xing, then member of the standing committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xiping county committee and head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the CPC Xiping county committee.
According to Wang, who is now a researcher with the Zhumadian Municipal Health Sports Commission, Xiping county mobilized all the people with psychological counselor certificates to set up a team of social volunteers for public psychological services.
By joining hands with professional psychological service organizations, the county has integrated psychological services into the daily management and services of various townships and departments under its administration, and preliminarily established a public psychological service system that covers large areas and can respond promptly to people’s needs.
In April 2017, Lu Xiaohui (pseudonym), a resident in Cuizhuang village, Songji township of Xiping county, caught the attention of public psychological service volunteers as well as Wang.
Lu was so depressed after a painful break-up that he dropped out of a university in Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong province, and just idled the days away in his bedroom.
To help him feel better, Wang often visited Lu to talk with him, and took professional psychological counselors to help him.
After finding that Lu was interested in artificial intelligence (AI), Wang brought Lu some books in the field and encouraged him to continue with his study.
These efforts gradually helped Lu walk out of his negative emotions. The man has now secured a job in Fuzhou, southeast China’s Fujian province, and got married.
As he has never forgotten those who helped him when he was down, Lu decided to pass on the warmth he felt to more people by becoming a social volunteer himself.
He therefore obtained a certificate for psychological counseling, and started to give psychological services via the Internet as one of the volunteers of Xiping county.
In 2018, Zhumadian city started to promote the experience of Xiping county in building a system of public psychological services in other parts of the city.
The city has established an experience center for public psychological services, which is equipped with private chat rooms, psychometric room, and other facilities.
It has also built volunteer groups made up of selected and trained volunteers from various industries, who carry out regular activities to promote mental health knowledge.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s public psychological service system has played a positive role in relieving people’s anxiety and stress.
Through various channels including WeChat chat groups, volunteers have been able to comfort and soothe residents in their neighborhoods and communities in a timely manner.
In addition, the government of Zhumadian city set up a hotline for psychological services promptly, and established a professional hotline service team which mainly consists of psychological service workers who had received relevant training and volunteers with experience in psychological crisis intervention for public emergencies.
Members of the professional hotline service team have conducted psychological intervention for key groups including confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases, patients with high fevers, close contacts, and medical workers, and provided psychological assistance for residents amid the outbreak.
By providing timely psychological services, they have helped lift up the spirits of residents, said Zhu Shixi, mayor of Zhumadian city.