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Draft law on mental health in the work place
(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-10 09:03

Employers will be required to provide a mentally friendly working environment and patients with serious psychological disorders may receive free hospitalization, according to a draft of the nation's first mental health law, experts said yesterday.

The draft will be completed by the end of this year. It will then be sent to the State Council and the National People's Congress. The law is expected to be enacted before 2008.

According to Xie Bin, vice president of the Shanghai Mental Health Center and a member of the legislative team, each industry may determine the requirements for creating a mentally favorable environment. This includes providing paid holidays and giving care to employees through associations such as a trade union or women's federation.

"Improving the overall mental quality of the public is an important task of this law," said Xie. "In addition to treating patients, we want to help people prevent and control mental problems."

Experts said the law focuses on patients' rights, reducing social prejudices and improving overall mental health.

According to the Shanghai Health Bureau, there are 160,000 residents suffering from various mental illnesses. Another 600,000 suffer from other psychological disorders. In China, about 16 million people have psychological afflictions.

The law will change standards for hospitalized patients. Currently, people are hospitalized at the request of the family.

"In the draft, only police will be able to send people that violate others or disturb society to hospitals," Xie said. "We suggest the government shoulder the medical bill."

In addition to legislation, medical experts also stressed more research needs to be done on mental ailments.

A pan-Asian Pacific conference on mental health will be held in the city next week. About 600 experts from home and abroad are expected to attend. Xiao Zeping, president of the Shanghai Mental Health Center, said: "We will discuss subjects including biological evidence of mental ailments, mental health in school."

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