Mental Health: 100 Million Suffering Condition In China
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
The scale of the state of mental health globally paints a dismal picture and according to Malcolm Moore (28/04/09) of the Telegraph argues, ‘China has at least 100 million people suffering from mental illness,’ as indicated by one of its most senior health officials.
Notwithstanding, this figure has been deemed ‘modest’ according to Huang Yueqin, the director of the National Centre for Mental Health.
The ministry of health set up her department in 2002 to enable policies to be drafted in order to counteract the vastly growing problem of mental illness that China has.
It has further been reported that mental health crisis has indeed overtaken other conditions, such as heart disease and cancer to the extent it has become the biggest burden by far. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 7% of the population have been affected.
Indeed, it may very well be useful to have a definition on mental health according to the WHO, “Mental health is a concept that refers to a human individual’s emotional and psychological well-being. Merriam-Webster defines mental health as “A state of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to use his or her cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life.”
Because the definitions of mental health may be deemed as broad, and that a significant proportion of Chinese suffer from relatively minor conditions such as anxiety, depression, drug addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Dr Huang has estimated that realistically; only 5% of the Chinese are aware of their own individual mental state and go on to seek help.
Nevertheless, it is only now that the Chinese government is recognising the depth and scale of the problem.
Dr Huang says, “The government did not pay much attention to the public’s mental health over the past 50 years, and did not invest much in treatment or care.”
In addition she argues, “However, the current five-year plan (for 2007-2012) has included mental illness treatment as a major field of research, which is a big step forward.”
Fundamentally, it has been established that in Beijing alone, there will be six new mental health clinics built in order to treat the 150,000 people, who have identified mental health issues. It is further understood that there are only 6,900 psychiatric beds that are readily available. A spokesperson for the Health Ministry, Deng Xiaohong has said that China will soon be able to cope with the demand on its mental health resources, including psychiatric care and counselling.
The flip side of the coin is the fact that China suffers a severe lack of qualified psychiatrics; this is because the profession in the past has been outlawed from the late 1960’s during the Cultural Revolution.
Arguably, the line of the thinking is that from a Maoist point of view, the school of thought was based around any mental illness was compared to an ‘incorrect appreciation of the class-struggle.’ Indeed many persons suffering mental health issues were swiftly sent to labour camps, attributed to their “counterrevolutionary” behaviour.
Subsequently, serving China’s massive population there are only 4,000 qualified psychiatrists and a further 15,000 doctors working in psychiatric hospitals.
Dr Huang said: “There are no psychiatry, psychology or psychotherapy students in medical school. You need to qualify as a doctor first, and then subscribe to a course in mental treatment,” Thus the process is still being hindered.
Moreover, Dr Huang considers that the true number suffering mental health issues could be significantly higher, she further adds, “My own estimate is that one-third of the students I was at university with now have some form of mental illness,”
Having said that, it is understood that Dr. Huang was dismissive of any link between the growing wealth and income inequality in China, she says, “As a society develops, it is only natural for government and people to pay more attention to the mental health, but it is not necessarily related to our rising social problems. People nowadays are less crazy than they were during the Cultural Revolution, that’s for sure. People are definitely happier now than in that special period,”