Coronavirus pandemic: Beijing universities open free counseling hotline for Chinese overseas
Updated 21:05, 06-Apr-2020
By Ma Ke

With the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic in China, many people are gradually returning to their normal lives. While some believe in the power of keeping busy and outdoor activities, others require professional help.  

Counselors in Beijing Normal University's psychological counseling center say they have received over 150 calls from overseas Chinese since the hotline opened.

Common symptoms include loss of sleep, weight gain, depression and anxiety. In more serious cases, consultants may even suffer from panic attacks and PTSD.

Among them, Chinese students are the most isolated group and most prone to negative thoughts, as they don't have established social relations like Chinese workers who have the support of companies, or Chinese immigrants who have the support of family.

Han Yuge has been serving as a volunteer for the free overseas hotline since it began two weeks ago.

Here are her suggestions to the Chinese students abroad:

First, cut off sources of negative information. Some social media accounts could use fear to increase reads, so don't believe everything you read online.

Second, develop several hobbies. Exercise, reading, even cooking can help ease up stress. Since many foreign countries have orders house quarantine, it's important to find distractions and not focus on the epidemic.

Third, don't try to carry everything by yourself. Talk to friends and family. Let them support you.

Han says the hotlines value privacy greatly. All contacts will be deleted in three days. But if the counselors detect suicide attempts they will contact local authorities to take action, and keep the callers numbers to re-visit their cases in the future.

The Beijing Normal University is one of the four top universities in Beijing that have opened free hotlines to help those affected by the epidemic.

More than 600 counseling experts are participating. 

At Beijing Normal University (BNU), the volunteers have an average of 100 counseling hours.

Chen Shitao, supervisor at Mental Health Services of the Faculty of Psychology at BNU, says the university has motivated over 300 teachers and graduate students since the end of January. Some of the volunteers worked at the frontline during the SARS epidemic and the Wenchuan earthquake, and are very experienced in dealing with disaster-induced traumas.

Project leader and supervisor Professor Wang Jianping is preparing the team for the next stage of work: Grief counseling. Counselors are expecting more calls in the coming months, as people who have lost someone during the epidemic might need time to heal and help to overcome their grief.

If you're a Chinese currently living in countries affected by COVID-19, you're welcome to call the following hotlines for psychological counseling:

Tsinghua University's psychological counseling hotline:

(86) 400-680-6101 (around-the-clock service)

Beijing Normal University overseas psychological counseling hotline:

(86) 010-86409146 (service from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. BJT)

Peking University's overseas psychological counseling hotline:

(86) 010-53466977 (serves from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. BJT)

Capital Normal University operates a psychological counseling hotline for overseas children:

(86) 400-900-5335 (service from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. BJT)