Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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The Qiang ethnic minority had a population of around 300,000 at the time of the earthquake. The Qiang mostly inhabit the poorest and most socially disadvantaged remote rural mountainous areas of the Wen Chuan and Mao Wen Qiang Autonomous Counties of Sichuan. The Qiang have a continuous cultural history dating from the Diqiang groups of the Xia Dynasty (16th to 11th century BC). They have their own language and animistic belief system, and have developed their own traditional ways of dealing with disasters. The Qiang’s myth of “Bubita” (God) and the legend of “Mutazhu and Douanzhu” (a heroic story) are key messages in understanding disasters; the village “Duyaomao” (poisonous cat, meaning witch) is important for explaining children’s illness and health. The rites conducted by the Shibi (cultural leader) are the core activity in advocating collective action for responding to disaster. To reach out quickly to children who have been affected by their traumatic experiences, many volunteers have given their assistance, including doctors, psychologists, counselling staff and social workers. In particular, a large-scale program of psychiatric counselling/therapies administered by the government is being carried out. However, employing psychological counselling and psychiatric therapies from the western individualistic perspective has led to a dilemma for public health based on medical/psychological agendas. Widespread evidence has also shown that there is a very limited effect from outside community visitors, whose one-off, inconsistent, non-indigenous messages do not carry over into the children’s everyday lives. The need for an indigenous approach is stressed.

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