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Mental illnesses continue to rise

[ 2009-06-17 14:58]     字号 [] [] []  
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An ounce of prevention, as they say, could be worth a pound of cure for the growing problem of mental illness across a country that lacks national legislation to deal with it.

A long-delayed draft law expected to be passed this year marks a significant shift from the treatment of mental illness to its prevention, said Sichuan University's Liu Xiehe.

At least 56 million patients with mental ailments across the country have not received any treatment and only one in four patients with serious mental disorders are hospitalized.

Liu first initiated the mental health legislation in 1985, but despite numerous attempts at amendment, it has never been passed.

The new draft devotes its first three chapters to preventing mental illnesses, before defining the responsibilities and needs of doctors, hospitals and patients, Liu, 81, told the Huaxi Metropolis Newspaper earlier this week.

Doctors cannot compel patients to be hospitalized unless patients cannot control their behavior and threaten to harm those around them, the draft says.

The move is good news for people like those in Changpai village, Guangdong province, who have been worried by Chen Jian'an, a 44-year-old mental patient who killed his brother Chen Taojia after a quarrel earlier this year.

After being diagnosed with a mental illness, Chen was released but the villagers demanded he be taken to a mental hospital. They collected 6,000 yuan ($882) to send Chen to hospital, but that only covers hospital fees for three months.

"Lack of money is a problem not only for patients, but also hospitals," Zhang Zhaoping, vice-director of Huidong county federation for disabled persons, told Nanfang Daily yesterday.

Mental illness covers a wide range of ailments, from depression to schizophrenia. The affliction accounts for 20 percent of all diseases in the country and has become a serious threat to public health, with the rate expected to rise to 25 percent by 2020, the Ministry of Health said.

Latest figures show there are 11 hospital beds and less than two psychiatrists for every 100,000 patients, far below the world's average of more than 43 beds and nearly four doctors for the same number of patients.

The country's health budget last year was 5.5 percent of gross domestic product, while the investment in mental health services took up 2.3 percent of the health budget in 2008.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Mental illnesses continue to rise

Mental illnesses continue to riseBrendan joined The China Daily in 2007 as a language polisher in the Language Tips Department, where he writes a regular column for Chinese English Language learners, reads audio news for listeners and anchors the weekly video news in addition to assisting with on location stories. Elsewhere he writes Op’Ed pieces with a China focus that feature in the Daily’s Website opinion section.

He received his B.A. and Post Grad Dip from Curtin University in 1997 and his Masters in Community Development and Management from Charles Darwin University in 2003. He has taught in Japan, England, Australia and most recently China. His articles have featured in the Bangkok Post, The Taipei Times, The Asia News Network and in-flight magazines.