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Thursday, March 26, 2009 - 19:30

Mental Health and Suicide in China: Progress, Challenges and Trends

Michael R. Phillips, MD, MA, MPH

Executive Director,

WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention,

Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center,

Beijing Hui Long Guan Hospital

Embassy of New Zealand

Xinxilan Dashiguan

1Ritan Dong Er Jie

This talk will discuss the political, social and economic factors that have influenced the prevalence of mental disorders in China, the evolution of mental health services and the unique pattern and trajectory of suicides in the country.

Mental illnesses and suicide account for over 20% of the total burden of illness in China, so their effect on the social and economic development of the country is much greater than that due to infectious diseases, cancer or heart disease. But as of 2001, only 2.35% of the government health budget was spent on mental health and less than 15% of the population had health insurance that covered psychiatric disorders. Redressing this inequitable allocation of health resources will require overcoming a number of formidable barriers.

Given the relatively backward state of mental health services, the huge numbers of untreated sufferers (over 90% of persons with depression never get treatment), and the assumption that the pressures of modernization lead to increased suicide, the 57% DROP in China's national suicide rate over the last two decades is—to say the least—unexpected.