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Mental Woes of Migrants

If a man works 12 hours a day, seven days a week, is despised and poorly paid, has no stable relationship, entertainment or social life - what will happen to him?

A mental breakdown?

This is a reality for many of China's 100 million rural migrant workers who come to cities in search of employment.

Experts attending the recently concluded 28th International Congress of Psychology in Beijing appealed for more attention to this psychologically vulnerable group as China's urbanization gathers pace.

Each year, 15 million peasants leave their lands and flock to the cities for jobs.

But they often live on the fringes of urban society.

"They live in isolation - far from families, no communities, discriminated by urban neighbors and no relationship. This can cause an emotional breakdown," warned Wang Chunguang, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

According to Chen Bing, a psychiatrist from Beijing's Anding Hospital, rural migrant workers are vulnerable to cultural shock, unfair treatment and hard travel to distant cities.

Some migrant workers also suffer from sex-based psychosis.

A survey of 1,900 migrant workers in Shenzhen, southern Guangdong Province, showed that more than 50 percent have sexual inhibition and more than 20 percent have visited prostitutes.

Though there are no accurate figures of rural migrants who suffer psychotic problems, Zhang Zhiqiang, a 36-year-old migrant from Sichuan Province working on a construction site, described life for this group in a few words: "loneliness, anxiety and depression - these are problems of urban people but everyday reality for us."

Wang blamed the isolation to the absence of community and public life.

However, Wang said the government's training program for migrant workers has partly eased the situation.

(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2004)

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