12 November 2010 at 14:16
The New York Times today published an insightful (and depressing) article on the state of mental health treatment in China:
The Lancet study estimated that roughly 173 million Chinese suffer from a mental disorder. Despite government efforts to expand insurance coverage, a senior Health Ministry official said last June that in recent years, only 45,000 people had been covered for free outpatient treatment and only 7,000 for free inpatient care because they were either dangerous to society or too impoverished to pay.
Doctors have found a direct correlation between the rapidity and extent of change in Chinese society with stress-related afflictions:
Although research is scanty, a recent Health Ministry survey suggests that the need for more specialists is growing fast. The study found that the incidence of mental disorders had climbed more than 50 percent from 2003 to 2008. Although some of the increase was because of greater awareness and reporting, Dr. Ma argues that the incidence of stress-related disorders like depression and anxiety has shot up.
"Chinese society is just changing too fast for people to adjust to it," she said.
The article goes on to discuss how much social inertia there is to accepting the reality of mental illness, to the ability to treat it, and to the lack of respect accorded mental health professionals. Mental illness does not stop at city limits, either; Chinas countryside is seeing a dramatic rise in cases as well.
This Is China!
November 10, 2010 Wednesday 8:00 PM EST