Education Eyes Mental Health

Psychological counselors are expected to be introduced to Beijing's primary and middle schools in the future, sources with the Beijing Education Committee said Friday.

The committee is drafting an education scheme on mental health, which calls for every primary and middle school in the city to provide at least one psychological counselor for students, according to Wang Rui, an official with the Moral Education Department under the committee.

Certified professional psychological counselors are badly needed in Beijing schools, Wang said Friday.

The plan for improving mental health education in schools comes on the heels of an incident last month in which a school boy committed suicide after quarrelling with his teacher.

Liu Haitao, a Beijing second grade senior middle school student, jumped to his death from a half-completed building after quarrelling with his teacher on December 20.

Adolescents are prone to developing a rebellious spirit and excessive pride, which may lead them to extreme actions, Wang said.

"Psychological consultation, which can help youths tide over difficulties in their adolescence, is a must in schools,'' Wang said.

"However, besides school education, young people's mental health should be a concern of all of society, especially families,'' she said.

Generally speaking, the mental health of Beijing's 1.52 million primary and middle school students is good, according to Fang Ge, a professor at the Psychology Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

However, prevention is better than the cure, Fang admitted. She said the earlier mental health education is introduced to youths, the better results it will yield.

As a member of an expert group on mental health education supervision organized by the Beijing Education Committee, Fang and her peers have already introduced pioneering mental health education programmes into some primary schools in Beijing, Qinhuangdao in Hebei Province and Ningbo in Zhejiang Province.

Some primary schools in Beijing's Daxing County hold weekly psychological classes, which have been warmly welcomed by school children, Fang said.

In these classes, children are encouraged to role play and discuss mental problems with others and try to resolve difficulties on their own.

The trial mental health programme was launched late last month in 200 primary and middle schools in 13 districts and counties in Beijing.

The city now has approximately 3,000 primary and middle schools.

(People's Daily January 6, 2002)

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