Psychologist devoted to helping people get through epidemic

Updated: Jul 31, 2020 By Xie Lin Women of China Print
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Pan Lan is a psychologist and director of Rongzhi Social Work Service Center. As a responsible person who heads a social organization, she is engaged in public-welfare activities, during which she uses her professional ability in psychology, and she does her utmost to help people discover their inner strength to cope with life.

Pan Lan helps many people through the psychological-assistance hotline.[Provided to Women of China]

Helping people

When Pan was in the third grade, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mother has since been hospitalized often, and her father has been caring for her mother day and night. Pan felt that all she could do was take care of herself, so her parents would not worry.

In one of Pan's university psychology classes, the teacher asked the students to listen to a piece of music, and then to express their feelings. "From the music, the scene of a little girl, struggling forward with a heavy bundle on her back, appeared before my eyes, and that little girl was myself. In fact, I had always been lonely, longing for the embrace and love of my mother…"

It was through that exercise that Pan began to know herself again, and through which she started her new journey in life. After she graduated from Wuhan University, with a major in journalism and mass media in 2002, she attended New York University, the United States, where she studied for a master's in child psychology.

After she graduated from New York University, Pan returned to her hometown, Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province, where she became a fulltime psychologist, and where she set up her own team providing psychological services.

Pan is now a senior counselor, senior family and marriage counselor, and chief expressive art therapist in Hubei province.

She initiated a public-welfare project on left-behind and migrant children, and advocated the concept that "it is more important to understand children than to teach them." By providing professional psychological counseling services, she is dedicated to helping more people discover the inner strength to cope with life.

The activity of "Public Welfare Lecture Hall on Family Education" in communities is a brand project of Hubei Provincial Women's Federation. Pan and other members on her team have provided thousands of psychology-related lectures in communities. These lectures are widely received by residents, who believe that such lectures can make a big difference for parents and children. For example, inspired by such lectures, a student joined the youth volunteer association after entering the university, and served left-behind children in rural areas.

Pan's own experiences motivated her to initiate public-welfare projects. Pan has led her team in publicwelfare activities for 10 years. "Through public-welfare activities, I realized that I could help more people. There is no way to express such happiness in words," Pan says.

Pan Lan exchanges with a child.[Provided to Women of China]

Join the fight against Covid-19

In 2020, the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus disease) epidemic broke the peace and tranquility of Wuhan. As the epidemic continued, citizens faced growing pressures. Under such circumstances, Pan and other members of her team have staffed a psychological-assistance hotline daily since January 23 to soothe the hearts of callers seeking comfort.

On Feb 8, Pan and various members of her team agreed, through exchanges, the epidemic has an impact on everyone, and poses unprecedented challenges to the society.

Therefore, the psychological support provided by the hotline had to be more than a regular and purely therapeutic and pathological intervention; it had to take into account all social factors, such as the family environment, community resources and the social support system.

In addition, the counselors should take scientific, orderly and precise measures to continuously and efficiently provide psychological assistance, as well as other support including health care, help-seeking resources and emotional comfort.

During the evening of Feb 1, an obviously distressed woman called the hotline. The woman told Pan her nephew had been running a high fever for five consecutive days, and that she did not know what to do.

Because the symptoms were similar to those of COVID-19, she could not help feeling worried that anything bad would happen to the child.

Pan calmed the woman down, and then called local authorities for assistance in contacting and treating this child.

"There are always problems behind moods. Therefore, I tried to understand and help solve her problem with great empathy and patience, to soothe her mood," says Pan.

After the child had settled down, Pan called the woman back to inform and reassure her.

On Feb 29, a young man called the hotline, and he asked Pan, "Are you a psychological counselor? I feel sad and want to talk to someone." The man was working in Guangzhou, in South China's Guangdong Province, but the epidemic kept him at home, in Wuhan, and prevented him from returning to work after the Spring Festival. He felt anxious about his job, and especially about making his monthly mortgage payment.

Pan said, "I face a similar situation, so I understand your concern now, in particular. Now, the government is constantly promoting measures to resume work and production, which is beneficial for us. Why don't we discuss our career preparation before returning to work?" During the two-hour phone call, they talked about the resumption of work, their respective professions and their career development in the future.

"In the midst of sudden changes, we should keep calm and analyze all the information. Enhancing our psychological immunity is the most positive emotion we can give ourselves right now," Pan explained to the man. In fact, that advice applies to everyone.

During the epidemic, Pan helped many people through the psychological-assistance hotline, and also received positive feedback from them. A typical example was the 71st call received by Pan: "Thank you very much! My child has calmed down a lot after communicating with you, and is now willing to open the door and talk with me."

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, Pan has received many calls from parents, who have expressed concern the epidemic will have a psychological impact on their children. They have also asked how to improve their relationship with their children, and how to help their children develop good habits at home.

"Children and adults have the same stress response to the epidemic," Pan notes. "But children are more sensitive to being neglected. The impact of a crisis on children depends on their age and the way their family members interact with them. The first step for parents to support and help their children is to keep stable and relaxed.

"It's a good time for people to take a pause in their busy lives and read books, listen to music and do physical exercises, and refocus on how to get along well with family members," says Pan. "Family intimacy can help children feel satisfied, enjoy the support from family members, and have a low level of inner anxiety in the face of emergencies … For teenagers, family intimacy can increase their psychological resilience, buffer the adverse stress and reduce anxiety symptoms."

On April 24, a post-epidemic, psychologicalassistance-service agency was established, by Pan's team and China Federation of Social Work, in Huacheng community, Dongxihu district, Wuhan.

In this agency, professional psychological counselors and community workers jointly provide "one-stop" postepidemic psychological services both online and offline.

"Since the epidemic, I have had a deeper understanding of the people in Wuhan. They are down-to-earth, flexible, optimistic and tolerant. They have shown great restraint and courage in dealing with their grief in the face of the epidemic … Wuhan has long been renowned as a heroic city. In face of the disaster, we see the kindness and courage demonstrated by all," says Pan.

Despite her many titles and honors, Pan feels more responsibility than honor. "I will try my best to give full play to the exemplary role of a social organization, be engaged in public-welfare activities with my professional ability in psychology, and do my utmost to help more people discover the inner strength of life," she says.

On her lecture, Pan Lan shares the children's paintings.[Provided to Women of China]

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