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Earlier today we told you about the rise of HIV phobia in China. Now it seems help is at hand for sufferers. In a new move, the Ministry of Health is requesting each of China’s provinces set up at least one psychological counseling telephone hotline by the close of 2010, as part of a nationwide mental health program.
As China Daily reports:
The hotlines, to be based in local mental health hospitals, will provide services free of charge. Their goal will be to help address varied mental problems afflicting the public in the country today. The hotlines would connect callers to convenient and affordable psychological services and help decrease losses caused by mental problems.
Professional counselors will undergo training to man the phone lines, which will “include learning practical skills in communication over the phone, as well as procedures in handling cases involving violence, crime, suicide and drug addiction”, the paper went on to say.
China’s history of mental illness has not gone unnoticed. The National Centre for Mental Health has estimated China has around 100 million mental health sufferers, with only 5% actively seeking treatment. When treatment is sought, it is largely insufficient: there are allegedly 11 hospital beds and fewer than two psychiatrists for every 100,000 people in the PRC (the world average currently sits at 43 beds and four doctors). Rural parts of China are especially subject to the worst gaps in mental health care.
Against figures like these, we can only hope these hotlines will help continue China’s ongoing reform of mental health services.