The most recent data available from the National Center for Mental Health, part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, show that in 2009 China had more than 100 million mental disease patients, 16 million of them severe cases. That means one in 13 people in China has a mental problem, and one in 100 is a severe case.
The incidence of mental illness jumped from 27 per 1,000 in the 1950s to 175 in 2009. However, the numbers of psychiatrists and treatment facilities greatly lag the need.
CDC statistics show there is only one psychiatrist in China for every 900 patients, and one hospital bed for every 120 mental patients. In many county-level cities in underdeveloped regions, there are no mental hospitals.
The Beijing Health Bureau reports that the capital has 1,000 psychiatrists, about 2,000 psychiatric nurses - and an estimated 60,000 mental patients.
Huilongguan Hospital, the most renowned psychiatric hospital in Beijing, operates at an overload. It has 24 sections, each with average capacity for 60 inpatients. Only one is for patients who can take care of themselves; the rest are for severe cases.
The city's two other psychiatric hospitals, Peking University Sixth Hospital and Beijing Anding Hospital, operate at capacity. Sixth has about 500 beds and Anding more than 800.
"The hospital beds are not enough and we added more," said Yang Fude, Huilongguan's president. "There are so many patients who need to be treated that the public health sector has to make rules asking us to shorten the time that patients stay in the hospital."
He said the hospital has 180 doctors and more than 1,400 inpatients. Outpatient visits have increased 20 percent a year in the past five years. At the depression clinic, appointments must be made three months in advance.
Yang said the hospital can't afford many more psychiatrists. The government determines how many a hospital needs and pays for them, but any additional medical staff must be paid by the hospital.
"The enrollment figure (for doctors) given to our hospital hasn't changed since 1993. However, the number of patients is climbing fast," Yang said.
Twenty years ago, he said, the hospital operated at 80 percent of capacity and doctors were required to record their patients' mental condition once every month or two. "But now, it should be recorded every three days," Yang said.