PETALING JAYA: Group counselling away from the school setting could be a solution for the current mass hysteria outbreak in some Kelantan schools.
This is according to the founder and executive director of the Academy of Socio-Economic Research and Analysis, Prof Datuk Dr Wazir Jahan Karim (pic).
“For me, group counselling by clinical psychologists or medical anthropologists will help those affected,” said Prof Wazir when contacted by The Star.
As an alternative, the sessions could also be conducted by an ustazah who has a good relationship with the students, said the medical anthropologist.
What was important, Prof Wazir said, was that such sessions should not be held in the students’ school as the environment itself might trigger hysteria.
She said this form of counselling had worked on a group of students in one religious school she was studying during the early 1990s.
Prof Wazir was commenting on the mass hysteria involving over 100 students and teachers in SMK Pengkalan Chepa 2 last week.
Prof Wazir said further investigations during her study revealed that the students – all girls – were finding it difficult to cope with their syllabus.
It was also found that female students were “also kept on a tighter leash” compared to their male counterparts.
She said under these circumstances, mass hysteria was a syndrome of acute fear when someone – usually female – started screaming because they believed they saw an apparition.
“When one starts screaming, the others in a similar state of fear start to scream along with her. And before you know it, the whole class is screaming,” she said, adding that the first person was usually the one who displayed the most violent behaviour.
These screaming bouts might also be accompanied by fainting spells or rolling on the floor, she added.
However, Prof Wazir said in all likelihood, these were genuine symptoms, rather than something that was put up as a show.
“None of it is fake,” she pointed out, though she found it unusual that in the case of the school in Kelantan, even some teachers succumbed to the breakout.
To this, Prof Wazir wondered whether the teachers were “quite young”, as the more experienced and mature teachers usually did not display such behaviour.
“You should investigate if the teachers are very young and have just been transferred there,” she said.
Prof Wazir’s study in the 1990s coincided with a time when mass hysteria was commonly seen among factory workers – the majority of them young Malay girls.
However, she said cases of mass hysteria was also rampant in countries such as Jordan and Turkey.
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