Beijing plans to record residents' mental health

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October 10th marks World mental health Day and in the world's most populous country -- China -- psychological disorders are on the rise. In a bid to offer psychological support to those who might be in need, Beijing says it plans to build a new database that will track and record people's mental health across the city.

Psychological health isn't often talked about in China. But it is a growing concern.

According to a recent report in the British medical journal, The Lancet, more than 170 million Chinese suffer from a mental illness. With just one and a half psychiatrists for every one hundred thousand patients, that's one tenth of the ratio compared to the United States. But now, the capital wants to boost it's mental health awareness.

Beijing's city government says it wants to build a new database, listing every resident's psychological record. It will include families caring for mentally unwell relatives. Along with those who have lost an only-child. The aim it says, is to help them cope with mental health challenges.

"I think psychological issues are a huge problem," a resident said. "They aren't like physical issues, which can be easily detected.(Are you worried if the government or others know about your personal situation?) No, it's normal. It's more important to communicate with others, than keep it to oneself."

But others say they are worried about how the information will be used.

"It's necessary to set up a database for people's mental health," another resident said. "Given China's large population, there could be many people with psychological problems. But when it comes to my own information, I would be concerned about how securely it's stored and how professional the psychiatrists are."

Psychology graduate, Li Weixiao, is a professional dance therapist, who providing therapy to clients, through music and movement. She also welcomes Beijing's plan, but says it must be carefully managed.

"If they make this database based on peoples' situations," Li said, "it may create the perception that they have a mental health problem, before one even arises. I don't think there's a relationship. Some people may experience hardships, but never develop psychological illnesses. For people who do need help, I think it would be better if we had a database of trustworthy clinics, where they can go."

"In China, we think someone only sees a psychiatrist if they are sick. The media should tell the public: even if you're healthy, you need to care about your psychological wellbeing, just like keeping fit. Another issue is legislation. In China, there are no specific laws to protect the psychiatrist and patient, when disputes happen. Thirdly, we need to set up an accreditation system for psychiatrists."

As Chinese cities grow bigger, the millions of lives within them are growing more complicated. Violent attacks and sucicides are on the rise and with many of those behind them suspected of being mentally unwell.

But as China's cities pay more attention to psychological welfare, it's hoped they'll become more liveable and more safe.


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