Legislation Under Way to Protect Mental Patients

Local legislators plan to protect the rights of mental patients and improve mental health services described as "obviously inadequate'' as the number of patients is swelling.

The draft of a law is expected to be submitted later this year for discussion by the standing committee of the Shanghai municipal People's Congress, the highest legislative body of Shanghai, legislators said recently.

The law mainly focuses on the protection of mental patients' rights to receive medical treatment and convalescence services, prohibiting discrimination in schooling and employment against recovered patients.

The law defines the responsibilities of medics, local governments and communities in providing quality services and to give financial support, said Yin Yuanfang, an official with the city health department.

The law is believed to be the first of its kind in China, where mental health is emerging as a major public health problem as rapid changes amid economic growth have created mounting stress.

"Shanghai needs this law because mental health problems are affecting more people,'' Yin said. "Due to the lack of legal measures, many patients cannot get treated if, for example, their families refuse to send them to a mental hospital or family members shun their responsibilities to take care of the patients.''

In Shanghai, one of the world's most populated cities with 16 million, has an estimated 160,000 to 200,000 mental cases, experts say. An additional 500,000 to 750,000 people need less intense psychiatric help, according to a report released by the municipal People's Congress.

"Institutions which are qualified to provide psychiatric treatment are obviously inadequate in Shanghai,'' the report said.

The problem is even worse in the rural areas, where unemployed people can hardly pay for the treatments, the report said.

The Ministry of Health estimates that China is home to 16 million people suffering from mental problems and neurotic illnesses. The World Health Organization also fears that mental health problems, such as schizophrenia and depression, will account for 17.4 per cent of all diseases in China by 2020, a rise of 3 percentage points.

(China Daily 07/31/2001)

In This Series

Heed to Children’s Psychological Health

Mental Health Care Widens

Chinese Pay More Attention to Mental Health

Mental Illnesses to Become Heavy Burden for China

Mental Health Month Launched in Hong Kong



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