Experts urge improvement of mental health system

Updated: 2010-10-12 09:16
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BEIJING - About seventy percent of mentally ill people in China do not get effective treatment because of a lack of funding, said a psychiatrist from the Chinese Medical Association.

Prof. Yang Fude, director of Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, said in an interview with the China Youth Daily newspaper published Monday that 46.5 percent of the 400 mentally ill patients in his hospital pay their medical fees at their own expense even though 35 percent of them have low incomes or are unemployed.

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Yang's hospital is one of China's largest psychiatric hospitals. His survey was supported by a report from Mental Disease and Society Watch, a non-government organization, that was released Sunday, the 19th World Mental Health Day.

The report said China has pumped little into prevention and treatment of mentally ill people.

Statistics released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009 showed that China has a population affected by mental illness of more than 100 million, of which 16 million are severely ill.

The government has not taken on mental illness treatment as its responsibility, the report said, adding that many mentally ill people are under house arrest, deserted, or abused by families that can't afford treatment.

In East China's Jiangsu province, a mentally ill male was locked in a huge iron cave for more than 2 years, after he injured his father's leg and threatened to kill his mother with a kitchen knife, the newspaper said.

The report also denounced the chaotic conditions of hospitals housing mentally-ill Chinese citizens, saying that many individuals without mental diseases are forced into mental hospitals because of conflicts with others while many real patients are unable to receive treatment.

In 2003, farmer Xu Lindong from Central China's Henan province was maliciously forced into a mental hospital by local government officials.

He had been trying to publicize the illegalities of his township government to a superior government.

Xu was released from the mental hospital in April 2010, more than six years after he was robbed of freedom.

China has not established a legal system to secure mental patient's interests and rights.

To hospitalize a mental patient, hospitals does not even need to see a patient nor make a medical assessment of mental health.

"It's no different from kidnapping," said Huang Xuetao, the report's co-author and a lawyer in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The report suggested effective legal services be provided to involuntary mental patients to protect their human rights and eliminate abuse of hospitals' power.

"If the abuse of mental patients' hospitalization is not stopped, anyone could be the next victim," said Prof. Zhang Zanning from the Law School at Southeast University.