Schools to offer mental health services by end of 2022

Updated: Jan 7, 2020 CHINA DAILY/Xinhua Print
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All schools across China will be able to offer psychological services on campus by the end of 2022, as part of efforts to curb the increase in mental health issues confronting the country's young population, according to an action plan released by 12 government bodies including the National Health Commission.

Such services will either be based on platforms dedicated to mental health support on campus or rely on school doctors. Preschools and institutions receiving students with special needs are required to be staffed with full-time or part-time mental health educators, according to the action plan released recently.

By that time, 60 percent of psychiatric hospitals at the secondary level of the country's three-tier system or above should provide outpatient mental health services for children and teenagers, and 30 percent of pediatric hospitals, maternal and child care institutions, and general hospitals at these levels are also required to offer such services, the action plan said.

Incidences of mental and behavioral problems along with the rate of mental health disorders among the nation's children and teenagers have been rising in recent years, the commission's disease prevention and control bureau said in a release explaining the action plan.

About 30 million people under the age of 17 in China are dealing with emotional or behavioral disorders, according to a report published by the China Youth & Children Research Center.

Some who are suffering severe conditions have developed depression. Data from the World Health Organization show that an estimated 1.2 million youth in China aged 15 to 24 suffer from depressive disorders.

Lu Lin, president of Peking University Sixth Hospital, said last September that such burdens are particularly demanding for teenagers and young adults, with repercussions that could affect the entire society.

Early diagnosis and timely intervention are crucial in reining in the progression of mental health issues, but in China, only three in 10 patients with mental disorders seek professional assistance.

Liu Huaqing, a physician with the Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, said children and teenagers are prone to developing mental health issues due to their inability to handle setbacks and lack of life experience. Anxiety is also common.

Wang Changbin, a primary schoolteacher in Jiangsu province, said he also noted an increasing number of mental health problems in students, largely due to academic pressure.

"The awareness of the importance of mental health is also rising," he said. "If we notice some symptoms, we report to their parents who will decide if they want to use medical care offered by part-time psychologists on campus or seek treatment from professional service providers off campus."

Gaming addiction has been in the spotlight since it was recognized by the WHO as a mental health disorder last June. In China, the rate of overdependence on the internet, which sometimes takes the form of gaming addiction, stands at about 10 percent, compared with the global average of 6 percent.

Therefore, the latest action plan also calls for enhanced oversight over the country's online sphere. Internet watchdogs are required to tighten monitoring of online content and remove illegal or harmful information targeting youth.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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