China Experiences Psychiatry Boom Amid Hard Times

Over the past several decades, as China has competed and worked diligently to become a major world economic power, its people have been fiercely driven to succeed and produce, efficiently and with excellence. While the same might be said of any developing country, China’s unique population boom coupled with specific social stigmas — such as having more than one child or seeking psychiatric help in times of difficulty — make for an interesting case study.

Before private psychiatric practices were legalized in the country, as late as 2002, China began experiencing a wave of suicides, especially among its young people. In fact, a suicide officially occurred once every two minutes in the country over a considerable span of time. With the recent economic crisis bearing down on China, this problem has picked up momentum, and late last year, suicide was reported as the leading cause of death in citizens aged fifteen to thirty-four.

Accompanying this surge in mental and emotional hardship is the beginning of wide-scale acceptance of psychiatry in China. Most universities have begun offering courses and degrees in the subject, and schools for children have mental health care professionals on staff. Most significantly, the stigma surrounding the seeking of such help outside the home or workplace is becoming better understood, hopefully leading to fewer cases of both suicide itself and the intense difficulties leading to such an end.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kale


    March 3rd, 2009 at 2:20 PM

    Hopefully as the country starts to open up a little more and look to the West for more influence perhaps they will see the importance that psychiatry can have in curbing these rising numbers of suicide and will be a little more confident about allowing these services in the country. I know that China always likes to put on a good front for the rest of the world (remember the lip synching cute little girl at the Olympics this past summer?) but having suicide as a leading cause of death among your younger populations is not such a great way to do this. Psychiatric services can go a long way toward helping people with their mental issues and hopefully stemming the rising suicide rate and the sooner the Chinese government recognizes this the better their country will be for that.

  • Madeleine


    March 5th, 2009 at 3:51 AM

    The Chinese government in the past has made such a show of rejecting ideas such as psychiatry in their “perfect” society that it does not surprise me one bit to read that they are experiencing such a mental health crisis today. When issues such as these continue to be swept under the rug in order for the country to put on a good face it is no wonder that the people there continue to grow ever more unhappy with their lives. I hope that this rebirth in intellectual study will improve the lives of many Chinese people but I am also aware enough to know that things like this take time to begin to show just how much of a difference that it is making. Also I think we have to be careful and make sure that this is really what is going on, otherwise one might be inclined to believe that this new rhetoric is all for show once again.

  • Heather


    March 5th, 2009 at 4:08 AM

    Everyone has begun to see beyond the Great Wall. I think its only a matter of time before things change. What is the fun about keeping communism so alive?? People need hope to cling on to. They need to know that someone listens without harassing them all the time into being good, obedient children. The Beijing Haidian Christian Church has increased so dramatically that it was recently knocked down and a new, larger church was erected in its place. Simple evidence of that. I hope the Chinese Government realises the futility of not encouraging psychiatric services earlier.

  • Amy


    March 6th, 2009 at 3:46 AM

    They may realize it among themselves but they would never admit that to the world.

  • Joanna


    March 7th, 2009 at 4:40 PM

    I agree with Amy about that one!! The Chinese government has repressed people for decades. They are not about to give up that way of life. It’s only this generation of youth that are finding it hard to cope with. Well, change starts with one person. Hope, this fuels it.

  • Nancy


    March 8th, 2009 at 6:16 AM

    I had the pleasure of visiting China almost twenty years ago and I have to say that these were some of the kindest people I have ever met before in my life. They have absolutely no say so over what their government does but they are still so happy to be alive and a part of their wonderful country. Yes their governmant has made mistakes but it is unfair to assume that everyone in China feels the same way that their leaders do. It is just one of those sad situations where they have no power to change things. Maybe we should all do a better job of extending a hand of kindness toward these people rather than always saying the most negative things that we can think of about them. It is fantastic that psychiatric care may finally be coming to those who need it, but it is not because the general population of China thought they did not need it. It is simply often the case that they are not aware of any of the other services which may would otherwise be available to them outside of China.

  • Rodney


    March 9th, 2009 at 2:05 PM

    One would think that in these troubled economic times that there would be more societies all over the world experiencing a rise in suicides. That is just what seems to happen when people fall on times that are hard on the wallet. That makes it so apparent that we really are focusing on the wrong things in life. So much value and self worth that we have comes directly from how much money we make earn and spend- that has to stop as well. This is by no means meant to be an answer to the rising suicide rates but I do think that this is something that we should all look at as society as a whole and start dealing with the cycle of materialism that so many of us have fallen into. It is not the way that things were intended to be. I am glad to see that China and other countries are recognizing this as an issue and are doing much needed things to help stop the numbers from increasing even more.

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