Flight MH370

Malaysia Airlines flight 370

'Go home', mental health experts urge families of missing Chinese passngers on flight MH370

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 11:49pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 1:32am

Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight should return home to start the recovery process, mental health experts say.

Such a prolonged period disconnected from friends and family was having an adverse effect on their well-being and keeping them locked in the early stages of the grieving process, the experts said.

Families of many of the 239 people on board the flight were taken to hotels in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur when news broke on March 8 that it had vanished.

As the days passed and leads dried up, many - particularly some of the Chinese - became frustrated and vented their anger towards officials and journalists.

Public sympathy has started to wane, leading the Chinese government to distance itself from their comments and accusations.

Paul Yin, a psychologist volunteering at the Lido Hotel in Beijing, said grouping families together had helped in co-ordinating the operation but it was time for them to go home, where he hoped the authorities would ensure they were properly cared for.

Sean Lee, a counsellor who has provided help for some 10 Malaysian families in Kuala Lumpur, said their response had been more muted.

When Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the flight had "ended" over the Indian Ocean, he said, the Malaysian reaction had "not been as strong as expected".

That was a sign they had overcome the disbelief characteristic of the initial stages of trauma, he added, and pointed to the Malaysians' strong religious beliefs as a possible reason.

"Religion helps people to face a situation where they feel powerless to change anything. They will leave everything to God," he said.

"[For the Chinese], demanding the truth is something they believe they can do for their family members."

Chong Keat Aun, a producer at a Kuala Lumpur radio station, said his Malaysian friend had been on the plane, "but his daughter prefers to stay at home with her mother".

As the focus of the investigation shifts away from the two capital cities, it is now decision time for many relatives.

Some fear returning home will leave them disconnected from the search. "We have work to do and family to take care of back home. And I am worried about my father too," said Liu Jiani, whose grandfather and grandmother were on the plane.

"Emotions are tense here [at the Lido Hotel]. People look very calm, but they become very emotional all of a sudden. But after I go back home, who is going to help me and what can I do if I want to get in touch with someone to know about the latest search efforts?"