Mental health services improved
Shanghai is accelerating its pace in revising current mental health regulation, highlighted by the construction of a comprehensive mental health service system for the city of more than 20 million population.
Current mental health regulations were officially released by the municipality in 2001 and have played an important role in the development of the mental health sector nationwide.
Since China’s Mental Health Law took effect in May 2013, Shanghai has been revising its local regulation to meet the growing demand for mental health services driven by the rapid development of the society and the economy.
“The revised version has clear statements on the requirements of the mental health service system, covering all the issues involved, from mental health education and prevention to diagnosis and treatment,” said Chen Hongzhuan, vice-president of Shanghai Jiao Tong University Medical School, who helped with the revision.
The revised version spells out the roles of different components of the system, such as medical institutions, specialized hospitals, psychological counseling and care centers. There are also special requirements for the qualifications of people working in the sector, Chen said at the HarvardChina Fogarty Conference on Mental Health Services in China held in Shanghai this week.
revised version has clear statements on the requirements of the mental health service system, covering all the issues involved, from mental health education and prevention to diagnosis and treatment.” CHEN HONGZHUAN VICE-PRESIDENT OF SHANGHAI JIAO TONG UNIVERSITY MEDICAL SCHOOL
The conference was part of the Harvard-China Fogarty Program, which was launched in 2012 to improve the country’s mental health services.
The five-year training program focuses on building research capacity and improving mental health among all age groups in China. It is sponsored by the Fogarty International Center of the US National Institutes of Health, and jointly initiated by the department of global health and social medicine of Harvard Medical School, the Shanghai Mental Health Center and the Peking University Institute of Mental Health.
Under the program, professionals from these three institutions will provide training for researchers, doctoral-level students and post-doctoral fellows from Shanghai and Beijing. It will also provide training for clinical psychiatrists from other areas of the country.
“The country has seen a huge demand for mental health services and there are very limited resources to meet it. The level of mental health service in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai is relatively high. But in many other areas, the level is still very low,” Chen said, adding that the program helps improve the medical staff ’s expertise level, especially those in remote areas.
China’s official figures show that about 16 million people in China suffer from severe mental illnesses.
In Shanghai, there are 113,000 people suffering from severe mental illnesses registered with local health departments. The city has 24 mental health specialized medical institutions with more than 13,000 beds, according to the city’s health department.
A pilot program integrating mental health services into primary care is underway in Shanghai’s Changning district.
“Currently, chronic disease management, such as diabetes and hypertension, is handled by community-based medical services. But when a patient goes for treatment, their mood and mental health condition are often overlooked,” said He Yanling, professor of psychiatry at Shanghai Mental Health Center, who runs the pilot program.
She said that the mental problems of these patients, such as anxiety and depression, should be given more attention.
He and her team have been working to establish an online management platform to provide long-term, on-going service for these groups through regular mental health monitoring, follow-up and management.
In addition to strengthening the training of medical staff, He also emphasized the importance of public education.
“Many patients are reluctant to admit they have mental problems and refuse any service. So it’s important to improve their awareness of mental health,” she said.