Help for mentally ill

Updated: 2013-07-24 07:22

(China Daily)

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The latest incidents in Beijing of people reportedly with mental health problems attacking and killing people in public places have again underscored the urgent need for effective action to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

On Monday, a man purchased a knife at a Carrefour supermarket and began attacking people inside the store; one woman died and three others were wounded, including a 2-year-old boy. According to the police, the suspect had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment in September last year and discharged in January.

This is the second such violent incident in the capital in a week. On July 17, a 27-year-old man from Shandong province stabbed two people to death, including a woman from the United States, outside a popular shopping mall. Beijing police are trying to confirm with the police in his hometown that the suspect has a mental health problem, as the unemployed man reportedly told them he is mentally ill.

The two incidents have greatly alarmed the public and exposed the ineffectiveness of current efforts to help people suffering from mental health problems. They have also raised the question of how society can prevent such tragedies happening again.

Joint action is needed by society and families to care for people with mental health problems, and custodian responsibility deserves special emphasis for those with a propensity for violence.

It is estimated that there are about 15 million people in China with a serious mental health problem, and behind that number are the challenges that families, communities and health providers face in taking care of them. There are 19,000 registered psychiatrists working in 572 mental hospitals nationwide, which have 132,000 beds. Clearly this is nowhere near enough.

A broader treatment and rehabilitation system is needed so that people with mental health problems get the care and attention they need, and families caring for people with mental health problems get the support they need. This requires greater funds from both central and local governments.

For the sake of people suffering from mental health problems and for public safety, more financial and other resources must be devoted to care facilities and training mental health professionals.

(China Daily 07/24/2013 page8)