Youths' mental health services to be improved

Updated: Jun 1, 2023 China Daily Print
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Sun Fang, a psychology teacher and counselor at a high school in Hubei province, interacts with students in class. [Photo provided to]

Experts on Wednesday called for nurturing more pediatric psychiatrists and improving awareness about mental health problems among parents and school staff to more promptly detect children in need of help.

Tie Changle, a psychiatrist at China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said that around 17.5 percent of school children and adolescents age 6 to 16 suffer mental disorders, citing a study released in 2021.

Mental illnesses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and depressive disorder are the most prevalent, he said.

"Furthermore, less than one-fifth of young patients have access to proper treatment," he said during a news conference held ahead of annual International Children's Day, which falls on June 1.

Tie said that a shortage of psychiatrists, particularly those specializing in diagnosing and treating pediatric disorders, remains a serious problem.

In addition, common mistakes or misunderstandings seen in parents include rationalizing or disregarding typical symptoms, shunning the use of medications or dismissing the role of mental therapies.

"Concerted efforts from across society are needed to address mental health problems among children and adolescents, such as stepping up communication between schools, families and hospitals, and ramping up advocacy campaigns on mental health," he said. "It is also important to detect mental disorders among youth as early as possible and deliver personalized, comprehensive, continuous and scientific interventions."

Ni Xin, president of Beijing Children's Hospital affiliated to Capital Medical University, said that China has attached great significance to young people's mental health. For instance, last year the commission released a guideline aimed at standardizing screening and intervention services targeting autism.

However, he said that more effort is needed to increase the number of medical professionals in this field and coordinate action between families, schools and health institutions.

"It is important to spread mental health knowledge among parents to enable them to swiftly identify early signs of problems in their children," he said.

He suggested that parents receive training in this aspect, learn to foster a warm home environment and tolerate their children's emotional swings.

Tie, from China-Japan Friendship Hospital, suggested parents take action when noticing that their children demonstrate behavior unfit for their age or education level, or when their children cause continuous trouble at home or school.

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