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Children's mental health rings alarm
( 2003-11-25 08:45) (Xinhua)

Parents and teachers should do more to help children relieve their stress and ensure their mental well-being, experts say.

Chilren also have their own problem with mentality.
Instead of venting anxiety to their parents, two-thirds of teenagers surveyed in the northern port city of Tianjin preferred to either deal with it themselves or talk to a friend.

While the absolute majority of the 400 students surveyed, all aged between 13 and 18, were mentally healthy, anxiety, depression, phobias and other psychological problems still existed in some youngsters, said Xiao Yong'an, a researcher with the Tianjin Committee of China Zhi Gong Party (China Public Interest Party), one of China's non-communist parties.

Xiao and his colleagues collected the responses from seminars and questionnaires over the past year.

"Parents bear the main responsibility for young people's psychological health," said Xiao. "They should communicate more with their children and listen to what they have to say."

In most of the country's one-child urban families, parents seldom hesitate to spend money on their children. "But a caring and loving home environment is equally important," said Xiao, who insisted that parents should "bow to look their children in the eye and treat them as equals."

"The unreasonably high expectations of some parents, however, have daunted their children and even undermined their mental health", he said.

Despite the various problems they might have, children reaching puberty tended to be sensitive, fragile and sometimes defiant and would never give vent to people they did not trust, he said.

Xiao and his colleagues found that only 6.8 percent of the respondents called for better counseling at school, while the majority of the students surveyed did not expect to be helped by their schools or teachers.

"The counseling we get is no different from a lecture on ethics and better behaviors," some students complained.

For lack of professionals, some schools have confused psychological counseling with moral education and sometimes school doctors act as counselors, researchers have found.

"Schools should hire qualified counselors, who should help relieve the students' pressure by providing more personalized counseling tailored to their individual needs," said Dr. Wang Xiaohong of the research team.

China listed psychological counseling as a new occupation in 2002, backed by large groups of professional counselors trained at nationwide hospitals and higher learning institutions.

In the meantime, media workers had yet a larger role to play in bolstering teenage mental health, as the survey found that television, newspapers and the Internet had replaced schools and parents as the leading source of information for 74.1 percent of juvenile students, said Dr. Wang.

"The media should bear in mind their social liability and avoid harming teenagers with violent or erotic content," he said. "Adult films, for example, should be scheduled after 10:00 p.m."

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