One-to-one therapy takes place between a teenager and an internet addiction psychologist in Beijing on Sept 24, 2012. [Photo/VCG]
Counseling and psychological support are in short supply nationwide, according to the country’s first blue book report on mental health in 2017-18, released by the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Feb 22.
The report said more than 10 percent of Chinese have mental health problems, and 74 percent of those surveyed complained about difficulty accessing support services.
Many young people said that from age 12, when they entered middle school, their mental health became more fragile as they approached 18, the age most go to university or college.
The problem is exacerbated by China’s regimented education system, which leaves children little time for leisure activities as they are constantly moving between their homes and school, and, for many, extracurricular classes. For the majority, that process only ends when they enter college, obtain a degree and join the workforce.
“That means youngsters hardly get time to explore the different aspects of life or the real world. Therefore, when they are suddenly exposed to the outside world at college, many experience heightened anxiety,” said Gao Wenbin, a researcher at the CAS Institute of Psychology, adding that many people who seek praise on kuakua groups may fall into that category.
“Kuakua groups can be seen as support units, whose members help each other. It’s good to see they are prepared to take embarrassment, even anguish, in a lighter vein.”
To ease the issues affecting children, mental health services should be introduced at middle schools, and youngsters should be taught to seek help voluntarily, Gao said.
Fu Xiaolan, head of the institute and chief editor of the blue book, said mental health issues have been rising across various demographic groups for the past three decades.
Physical and psychological pressures have been intensified by the accelerating pace of life and work in the information society, resulting in more social problems and a heavier burden on healthcare services, the report said.
Mental health is attracting greater attention, with 88 percent of respondents saying psychological health services are important.
In November, 10 ministries and other official bodies introduced a pilot program to explore ways of establishing a national system of mental health support services.