30 million Chinese are suffering depression
Just 10 percent of the 30 million Chinese currently suffering from depression are getting proper medical care due to a lack of psychiatrists and social prejudice against mental illness, experts have said.
At a meeting in Shanghai last week, mental health professionals said that China has just 17,000 registeredpsychiatrists, or one for every 76,000 people.
Most Western countries have a 10-times better ratio.
Hao Wei, vice-director of the Chinese Psychiatrists' Association, said that more than 60 percent of those currently suffering from depression could greatly benefit from proper medication or professional psychiatric help.
"But there are just too few doctors available," Hao said, adding that investment in mental healthcare was also insufficient.
Hao said that about 25 percent of depression cases are first diagnosed by physicians.
"We need to help our physician colleagues recognize the early signs of depression, so that they can refer those patients to psychiatric professionals," Hao said.
However, the greatest problem, Hao said, comes from society, in the shape of the widespread prejudice people have toward those with mental health problems.
Because of public prejudice, many patients are reluctant to visit hospitals specializing in mental care, he said. As a result, 75 percent of all anti-depressants are prescribed by physicians.
Some patients are reluctant to take such pills, as they are concerned about the side effects, Hao said.
The economic cost of depression, in terms of medical bills and lost manpower, is about 60 billion yuan a year, experts said.
A survey conducted recently in Zhejiang and Hebei provinces found that depression was more prevalent in rural communities. Women were also more likely to suffer from it than men, the survey said.