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 registered psychiatrists, or one for every 76,000
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
"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
"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
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.