In order to enhance work on the control and prevention of the coronavirus epidemic and to alleviate the psychological pressures facing front-line teachers, Professor ZHAO Xudong, a well-known psychiatrist, a professor of the Tongji University’s School of Medicine, and Director of the Mental Health Center (under construction) of Tongji University, held an on-line tutorial for front-line medical staff of the University on February 6, 2020.
During his presentation, Professor ZHAO Xudong shared the stress response and psychological assistance skills required in crisis emergencies, and answered individual questions raised by the teachers. He combined both his life and technical experience in fighting SARS 17 years ago and analyzed the psychological impact of the new coronavirus epidemic on the public, medical professionals and front-line staff. He encouraged everyone to recognize the notion that: "panic is useless: we must instead follow a good attitude, actively prepare for battle against the disease, and pay attention to collective psychological control". He observed that there are still many uncertain factors in the epidemic, and that the country has adopted high-level infectious disease prevention and control. The measures will inevitably cause some public psychological stress and possible social panic.
Professor ZHAO pointed out that in the face of emergencies, society and individuals will experience three stages of stress: the alertness period, the resistance period, and the exhaustion period. At these various stages, people's emotional reactions will change. Special attention should be paid when the epidemic slowly subsides, as people's negative emotions may increase. We should be aware of the long-term, arduous, and complex nature of fighting the epidemic. As the medical staff are fighting on the front line, the general public should offer support by having proper rest, not exhaust themselves by worrying too much, maintain and strengthen their immunity, remain psychological calm, and be physically and mentally prepared to fight a protracted battle against the disease.
ZHAO emphasized that everyone should recognize the duality of stress. Stress is a state of mobilization that prepares people to fight. At such times, public vigilance and optimism combined with scientific and rational prevention and control measures will allow the epidemic crisis to be effectively controlled and overcome. If we treat the crisis as a great opportunity to inspire the spirit, sharpen willpower, exercise greater physical fitness, improve ability, take greater responsibility, and achieve higher value performances, then we will not only have vastly improved our levels of function, but also achieve better feelings of well-being.
Later, he shared the research on "Social Psychology in a New Coronavirus Pneumonia Outbreak" released by the Social Psychology Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, so that everyone can have a direct understanding of general social psychology. In addition, he also mentioned the precautions for team management during the epidemic's prevention and control period, such as implementing a rotation system, in which measures to ensure a rotational rest system, compulsory regulations to ensure rest, and providing conducive spaces for rest, are introduced. At the same time, people should pay attention to information releases, humanitarian care and other social support.
Questions covered by Professor ZHAO included: how to enhance mental capacity? How can frontline teachers overcome their anxiety amidst frequent perturbing statistical information? How to deal with the fear caused by symptoms such as lower fever and coughing during self-isolation? How to appease the disquiet of children who cannot go out to play during the isolation period? How to avoid virus transmission in confined spaces? How to communicate with a doctor as a family member of a healthcare provider? For such questions both scientific and practical suggestions were patiently and meticulously given by Professor ZHAO Xudong.
The medical staff who listened to the on-line lecture of Professor ZHAO considered it to be both professional and philosophical, and say they provided effective guidance and psychological support to relieve their emotions and stress.
The Mental Health Education and Counseling Center of Tongji University will also continue to provide psychological support to teachers and students, as well as the public, through special psychological assistance hotlines, online confidential Q & A services and WeChat post of relevant science articles.