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16 Million Chinese Suffer from Mental Illnesses

Roughly 16 million Chinese are currently suffering from some form of mental illness, a senior Chinese official disclosed in Beijing on April 7.

Zhang Wenkang, China's health minister, made the remark this morning at a forum to mark World Health Day 2001, which fell today.

China's rapid social and economic development, accelerating rate of urbanization and aging population, as well as intensified competition and the rising unemployment rate, are "having increasingly adverse impacts" on people's health, according to the official.

A nationwide survey shows that in recent years Chinese people are more and more vulnerable to such illnesses as depression, neurosis, alcoholism drug dependence and senile dementia.

Hence, China's Ministry of Health sponsored the forum to call for more attention to pay to mental health in communities, which is the theme of this year's World Health Day.

Under the slogan "Stop exclusion, dare to care", the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to create a more favorable social environment for the world's 400 million victims of mental illness.

Minister Zhang conceded that, as a developing country, China is still comparatively inefficient in rehabilitating mental patients, especially those in outlying and mountainous regions.

The prevalence rate of mental illness among Chinese has risen from 0.54 percent in the 1970s to the current 1.347 percent, warned Deng Pufang, chairman of the China Disabled Persons' Federation.

China launched a massive countrywide rehabilitation project for mental patients in 1991, which provided comprehensive and efficient treatment for 1.22 million severely ill mental patients.

In the coming five years, China is to provide rehabilitation services for another 2.4 million mental patients, and help them resume their normal lives as soon as possible, Deng said.

(People's Daily 04/08/2001)

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