COVID-19 mental health support in Wuhan, China

The group counseling helped alleviate the anxiety and pressure in daily life, contact with others and make some new friends.”– Wuhan Mental Health Center participant

In early 2020, the world watched as the coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China. The city of 11 million people went into lockdown for 76 days. It was a time of uncertainty, fear, loneliness, and for many, a time of loss. There was panic due to a lack of information about the virus and its impact, rising death tolls, and the disease shame and discrimination many faced during and after contracting the virus. In the community, there was a deep need for accessible quality mental health support.

In February 2020, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) and grantee partner Give2Asia, an international nonprofit working in 23 nations across the Asia Pacific, worked to identify local organizations with insight into the needs of Wuhan residents, and ability to reach them with appropriate programs. Even before the official establishment of the CDP COVID-19 Response Fund, CDP awarded its first COVID-19-related grant to Give2Asia. The grant supported Give2Asia’s work with the Hubei Red Cross Foundation and Wuhan Mental Health Center. Together, they provided mental health support for more than 4 million children, youth and older adults in Wuhan and the surrounding areas.

The Hubei Red Cross Foundation established a 24-hour psychological service hotline. They selected 20 volunteers to staff the hotline and provided them with case supervision, crisis intervention training and relevant medical training. The foundation purchased up-to-date technology for the hotline which helped to streamline services and reduce wait times and the frequency of disconnections. By Nov. 24, 2021, volunteers had received a total of 38,372 calls.

Wuhan Mental Health Center focused on providing community support through group work. They collaborated with social work organizations and street management departments to accurately reach residents with psychological support needs. These services provided more than 5,000 individuals with psychological counseling, spiritual comfort, relationship adjustment and more. Meanwhile, personalized diagnosis, treatment and follow-up were provided for key groups and effectively reduced the negative impact of COVID-19 on mental health.

The health center established 157 unique group auxiliary activities, promoting self-awareness, self-discussion and self-realization, and restoring participants’ normal social functions. Experts hosted a total of 10 professional trainings for frontline workers to help them identify psychological needs and intervene in psychological crises, and professional supervisors helped guide over 300 cases that required more in-depth training and support.

Meeting the community where they were was critical to the success of this program. One participant said, “The group counseling helped alleviate the anxiety and pressure in daily life, contact with others and to make some new friends.”

During this time of crisis, residents needed one another more than ever. Through our grant to Give2Asia, Hubei Red Cross Foundation and Wuhan Mental Health Center ensured Wuhan community members had support while navigating a traumatic situation filled with unknowns. CDP is proud to support these organizations’ commitment to mental health and their efforts to meet community needs throughout Wuhan, China.

(Photo: Social workers lead participants in a warm-up activity in the group counseling activity, which aims to lead the participants to break the ice and relax. Source: Give2Asia)