Outdoor exercise is part of the routine for patients at Huilongguan Hospital in north Beijing. China has a severe shortage of psychiatric hospitals and medical staff. Wang Jing / China Daily
Zhang Lijun says he is worried about having a madman living nearby. "What if they unexpectedly have a relapse and attack me? Who knows?"
Zhang, 66, exercises every morning at Yuetan Park in Beijing's Xicheng district. There's a rehabilitation therapy center nearby and he usually avoids it on his way home. Some neighbors have told their children not to play near the center, he said.
They, like Zhang, are afraid of the patients. But at least these patients, unlike thousands of other people in Beijing with mental illness, are being treated.
Jingxinyuan rehabilitation therapy center is one of the few in China specifically for the mentally ill. It was built in 2008 and has 10 outpatients who spend their days there, receiving medical care and guidance.
All were judged to be safe when they were released from hospitals and none have harmed any neighbors.
Beijing had about 34,000 mental patients on record in 2010, "but the exact number is estimated to be around 60,000," said Wang Tong, deputy-director of rehabilitation for Beijing Disabled Persons' Federation.
The federation operates Warm Home centers for people with all kinds of disabilities, 360 centers in every district and county at the end of 2011. But the mentally ill seldom go there because so little professional help is available.
"The mentally disabled are a special group who find it hard to lead normal lives after they leave the hospital," Wang said. "Without a doctor's guidance, other people are seldom willing to be alone with them."