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Mental Health Care Widens

Mental health care in China has dramatically improved over the last 10 years, according to experts. Increasing numbers of urban Chinese are today seeking counseling on a wide range of issues related to mental health.

“We receive more than 120 visitors a day right now – that’s up 20 percent since 1998," said Zhang Haiyin, chief doctor with the Shanghai Mental Health Center. Ten years ago, the center received 70 to 80 visits a week.

To accommodate the growing number of patients, the clinic has had to extend its service from five days to seven days a week.

Most of the counseling focuses on problems to do with education, employment, family life, relationships as well as mental distress, frustration and insomnia.

White-collar workers are the major recipients of counseling, accounting for 30 percent of total patients, said Zhang.

“The growing visits indicate Chinese people pay more attention to their quality of life. They have a better understanding that mental health is as important as physical well-being.”

Chen Zhigang, an employee of a foreign-funded consulting firm in Beijing, felt depressed and was encouraged by friends to seek mental health counseling. The doctor found he was suffering as a result of workplace pressure and competition. After several months of treatment, he was back to full health.

“Mental health counseling helped reduce my pressure,” said Chen. But many people are still reluctant to use counseling services. Zhu Chengyi, a railway worker from Shanghai, is unwilling to seek help.

“I will not go for it. It is too embarrassing for me,” said Zhu. “How can I tell my colleagues and family that I am seeking mental health counseling? They would think I was crazy.”

Zhang said a lack of information about mental health care prevented the growth of services in China.

He said a standardized training system was required to make sure all mental health doctors were properly trained.

“In western countries, mental health counseling has a wide range of methods for consultation and treatment. We need to improve our training to upgrade our services.”

(China Daily 05/23/2001)

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