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Depression sufferers grow in China
By Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-08 01:44

Depression is now one of the top three public health problems in China, according to Michael R. Phillips, executive director of Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Centre.

Statistics show that 5 per cent of Chinese people suffer from the disease and 13 out of 1,000 Chinese have mental health issues.

One-third of the 16,000 callers to the centre's hotline last year were found to suffer from serious depression, Phillips said. The hotline was established in 2003.

And 15 per cent of the callers harboured suicidal thoughts.

"Actually we do not really have evidence to prove that mental illness is becoming more and more common in China," said the Canadian doctor who has worked in China for 20 years.

"What has happened is a gradual increase in the awareness of the problem."

However, mental health services have not kept up with the growth in demand for help.

A study jointly conducted by the centre and the Beijing commission of science and technology shows a majority of patients get diagnosed when they pay first visits to doctors at general hospitals.

It is worrying because psychological treatment requires gradual and prolonged treatment, with many long-term meetings between doctors and patients, he said.

On another front, 90 per cent of Chinese who have committed suicide are found to have never sought psychological care.

Mental illness can result from a combination of personality traits, lifestyle stress or a lack of a social support network, experts said.

Phillips pointed out the nation's family planning policy is to some extent having a negative impact on the development of many young people's personality development.

"If children are spoilt by their parents, it prevents them from developing skills to deal with difficulties on their own," he said.

(China Daily 03/08/2005 page3)

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