A survey revealed that China has a large number of mental illness sufferers and lacks sufficient institutional resources and medical staffs to properly tackle the issue. (File Photo/Xinhua)
More than 100 million people suffer from mental illnesses in China, while about 16 million are affected by severe mental problems, according to estimates.
China is also one of the countries with a high suicide rate: 23 out of 100,000 people kill themselves every year.
China's Xinhua News Agency reported that the Legislative Affairs Office under China's State Council recently published its draft law on mental health. The draft, work on which started in 1985, was completed after 26 years following a string of delays.
Statistics published by the National Center for Mental Health of the China CDC in early 2009 showed that the there were 100 million mentally ill people in the country.
Other surveys indicated that people with severe mental health problems surpassed 16 million. The awareness rate of the public about these illnesses is also estimated to be less than 50 percent, with even lower rates of people visiting hospitals to receive treatment.
A large survey covering 12 percent of China's adults showed that 17.5 percent of the respondents suffered from mental illnesses; people over 40 years were also more vulnerable to such mental health problems, the survey found.
Moreover, the risk of men suffering from alcohol problems was estimated to be 38 times the risk for women, while the number of rural residents suffering from serious depression and relying on alcohol was higher than urban residents.
In Tianjin city, a survey of 50,000 college students showed that 16 percent of them suffered psychological problems. In Peking University, those who took a break or dropped out of schools because of psychological problems accounted for one-third of the total number of students on leave or who had dropped out over the past decade.
Another three-year survey carried out on seven schools by the Science and Technology Commission of Hangzhou Municipal People's Government revealed that 25.39 percent of students were struggling with psychological issues.
In 2002, China published the results of its first large-scale survey on suicide, which found that 287,000 died after committing suicide every year. In fact, suicide was the top cause of death for individuals aged between 15 and 34 years.
Moreover, the overall suicide rate in China was estimated to be 23 for every 100,000 people, compared with the global average of 10 for 100,000 people.
Experts acknowledged that the mental health system is weak in China and that there is an acute shortage of professional institutions and personnel.
The National Center for Mental Health estimated the number of beds available for mental patients averaged 1.04 per 10,000 people, and that there was just 1 mental health doctor for every 100,000 people.
Li Gui, the head of the disease control division of Shanxi's Provincial Health Department, said that a series of incidents involving mental patients -- disturbed people killing children, college students committing suicide and Foxconn workers jumping to their deaths -- had raised public awareness on mental health issues.
Xu Yung, an expert on mental health at the No. 1 Hospital of Shanxi Medical University, said that fighting mental illnesses at the grassroots level is hampered by low identification, low visit and low management rates.
One conservative estimate put the number of people visiting hospitals to seek treatment at just one-third of the total number of patients; the remaining two thirds did not seek treatment due to financial or personal reasons.
National Center for Mental Health of the China CDC 中國疾病預防控制中心精神衛生中心
Li Gui 李貴
Xu Yung 徐勇
No. 1 Hospital of Shanxi Medical University 山西醫科大學第一醫院