At the beginning of 2020, novel coronavirus pneumonia (hereinafter referred to as “NCP”) started to spread all over the world. On January 26, 2020, the National Health Commission released the Notice on Issuing the Guiding Principle of Emergency Psychological Crisis Intervention of Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, bringing psychological crisis intervention into the overall deployment of epidemic prevention and control, aiming to reduce the psychological harm caused by the epidemic and promote social stability1. Psychological crisis intervention is an indispensable constituent in the emergency system of national public health emergencies, playing an important role in emergency management2. In addition, reinforcing persuasion and intervention of the public psychological crisis during public emergencies is an important part of reinforcing the construction of a social psychology service system and cultivating a positive social mentality.
The Raising Of Issue
Psychologist G. Caplan began to conduct systematic research on the psychological crisis in 1954 and proposed the psychological crisis intervention theory3. He thinks that when an individual faces dilemma and the method by which he usually deals with the problem and the supporting system are not enough to handle the dilemma, that is, when the dilemma he must face exceeds the individual ability, the individual will produce a temporary psychological imbalance. This imbalanced state is called a psychological crisis. The characteristic of the psychological crisis is high tension accompanied by anxiety, frustration and confusion4. According to the stimulating source of the psychological crisis, the psychological crisis can be divided into two types: the growth-related crisis and the environment-related crisis, among which the environment-related crisis is psychological crisis caused by external affairs and thus has higher uncertainty5. Negative psychological reactions, such as anxiety, frustration, confusion and nervousness, caused by NCP among individuals or groups are environment-related crises. Empirical research explores the causal relationship of affairs and strengthens the certainty cognition of human beings on affairs. Therefore, exploiting the influencing factors of the environment-related psychological crisis and conducting effective persuasion and intervention on the psychological crisis are prerequisites to relieve the psychological harm caused by public emergencies and safeguard public psychological health.
There is synchronicity between the research of the academic circle on the psychological crisis with its influencing factors and the breakout of public emergencies. This means that the breakout of public emergencies usually leads to the investigation of the academic circle on the psychological crisis. Existing studies accumulate abundant experience and foundations for the further investigation of psychological crises. In terms of the research content, researchers investigate the influencing factors of the psychological crisis mainly from the nature of public emergencies, individual, and social environment, among which the nature of public emergencies such as novelty, controllability and predictability is considered the important cause of the production of the psychological crisis6. Individuality, attitude, cognition toward public emergencies, and whether a person has experienced a similar public emergency are individual factors that influence the psychological crisis7 8. In addition, social support and government trust are important factors that influence psychological crises in the social environment aspect9–10. Agreement has basically been reached in the research on the nature of public emergencies and individual factors. However, common views have not yet formed on the social environment factors that influence the psychological crisis. Regarding the research method, the qualitative research approach is widely used in the existing research. Investigation is conducted mainly in aspects such as concept sorting, current situation description, theory investigation and logic inference. However, quantitative research is still insufficient. At present, there are only a few examples related to SARS using quantitative research on the psychological crisis and its influencing factors11. From the perspective of research, the psychological crisis is widely considered from the perspective of psychology and sociology in the existing research. On the other hand, psychological crises are accompanied by public emergencies, and the persuasion and intervention of psychological crises have become important issues in the scope of public crisis management.
In conclusion, this research will take the NCP as the research background, investigate the social environment factors that influence the public psychological crisis under the circumstance of public emergencies by using a questionnaire, and focus on two social environment factors: public trust in the government and social support.
The following structure of this paper is arranged as follows: section two is the research assumption, which will sort the social environment factors that influence the public psychological crisis, reveal the possible effects of government trust and social support on the public psychological crisis, and propose the core assumption of this research; section three is the research design, which introduces the data sources, variable description, and econometric model; section four announces the result of the substantial evidence; and the last section sums up the whole paper and proposes the corresponding practical suggestions.
Government Trust and Psychological Crisis. Government trust is the type of psychological approval and evaluation attitude of the public toward the operation and behavior of the government between their expectation and cognition12. The psychological crisis is a state of psychological imbalance produced due to the inability of the individual to deal with the dilemma because of the uncertainty of the situation and the unpredictability of the future. Therefore, the individual who is unable to deal with the current situation turns to external forces to handle the current dilemma. In public emergencies, government trust mainly comes from the approval and evaluation attitude of the public toward behaviors such as the management and control of public emergencies by the government and the formulation of measures to handle public emergencies. When the public approves the behaviors of the emergency management of the government, their confidence to face the dilemma will strengthen accordingly, thus relieving the psychological imbalance level, that is, relieving the sense of psychological crisis of the public. In contrast, the lack of government trust will aggravate the anxiety and unease of the public, thus leading to negative affairs such as panic buying of goods, flowing of rumors, and public panic, affecting the harmony and stability of society. Therefore, the lack of social trust or government trust is considered an important reason for the production of psychological crises or psychological panics13. Therefore, this research proposes the following hypotheses:
Assumption H1: While other factors remain unchanged, the higher the level of government trust by the public, the lower the level of psychological crisis;
Assumption H1a: While other factors remain unchanged, the higher the level of trust of the public toward the information released by the government, the lower the level of their psychological crisis;
Assumption H1b: While other factors remain unchanged, the higher the level of trust of the public toward the measures of the government, the lower the level of their psychological crisis.
Social Support and Psychological Crisis. “Social support is the type of selective social behavior to conduct help free of charge on social inferiors by using certain substantial and spiritual measures by certain social networks”14. According to different social networks, social support includes formal social support and informal social support. Compared with government trust, academic circles do not yet commonly view the influence of social support on the psychological crisis. Some scholars hold that groups that receive multiple dimensions of social support have a good interpersonal relationship, and good interpersonal interaction can strengthen the sense of psychological crisis. During interpersonal interaction, a specific social psychological atmosphere can be easily produced. The subject content related to public emergencies is repeatedly spread, causing psychological implications for the individual and finally aggravating psychological crises such as panic15. In contrast, some scholars hold that people who have higher social support can survive public emergencies more easily. Research related to social group stress also indicates that when the stress situation risk is shared with other people, the negative influence of the stress situation will be greatly reduce16. In addition, scholars have concluded based on data during the NCP epidemic situation that social support can relieve the relationship between internal stigmatization and the psychological crisis; that is, when the individual has a higher level of social support, the influence of internal stigmatization on the psychological crisis is likely to be reduced, thus relieving the level of psychological crisis of the public17. The different opinions of existing studies on the relationship between social support and the psychological crisis may be caused because the influence of different types of social support on the public psychological crisis has not yet been investigated. Therefore, in addition to investigating the influence of social support on the public psychological crisis, this research will also further investigate the different functions of formal social support and informal social support on the psychological crisis.
Similar to government trust, social support is an important way for individuals to receive external support. When facing public emergencies, the individual produces a psychological crisis due to the inability to compete with the dilemma, thus adopting the strategy of searching for external support. In detail, informal social support is the social network produced thanks to interpersonal interaction. In public emergencies, rumors and panic easily breed in social networks based on interpersonal interaction, thus aggravating the level of public psychological crisis. In contrast, formal social support from organizations and communities can normally provide correct information and powerful support measures in public emergencies, which has a certain defense against the production of the public psychological crisis. Therefore, this research proposed the following assumptions:
Assumption H2: While other factors remain unchanged, the higher the level of social support the individual owns, the lower the level of the psychological crisis;
Assumption H2a: While other factors remain unchanged, the higher the level of formal social support the individual owns, the lower the level of the psychological crisis;
Assumption H2b: While other factors remain unchanged, the higher the level of informal social support the individual owns, the higher the level of the psychological crisis instead.