UNICEF, experts call for all-hands-on-deck efforts for mental health of Chinese adolescents
Published: Oct 12, 2021 07:56 PM
A patient suffering from depression waits to see the doctor in a hospital in Taiyuan City, north China's Shanxi Province.Photo: Xinhua

A patient suffering from depression waits to see the doctor in a hospital in Taiyuan City, north China's Shanxi Province.Photo: Xinhua

All-hands-on-deck efforts and more concrete actions are needed to address the mental health of Chinese children and teenagers, representatives said at an event on Tuesday held by UNICEF themed on gaining awareness and support for mental health among adolescents. 

Data quoted by the State of the World's Children 2021 released by UNICEF showed that almost 46,000 adolescents globally die from suicide each year, and suicide is among the top five causes of death for their age group. More than 1 in 7 adolescents aged 10-19 years old live with a diagnosed mental disorder. 

Zheng Yi, a professor from Beijing Anding Hospital of Capital Medical University, told the Global Times at the event that China share similar challenges among adolescents. 

Many of the mental health problems among teenagers have been generated along with China's rapid industrialization and urbanization process, which has created challenges like left-behind children and housing problems, Zheng said.

Zhang Shubin, Deputy Director of the Mental Health Division of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control under the National Health Commission, during his opening speech called on governments at all levels and departments, schools, health institutions, communities, social organizations and other sectors to reinforce cooperation for young people's mental well-being. 

Everyone has a role to play in breaking the silence around mental health and reducing stigma that prevent children and young people from seeking treatment. Parents, other caregivers, teachers and public figures need to create an environment where young people feel that it's safe to talk about their mental health, said Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF Representative to China at the event. 

A report on Chinese mental health (2019-2020) released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in March showed detection rate of depression among Chinese adolescents was 24.6 percent, with 17.2 percent for mild depression and 7.4 percent for severe depression.

The prevalence rate of mental disorders among children and adolescents in China is 17.5 percent, a latest report - claimed to be the first national mental disorder epidemiological survey among Chinese children and adolescents - that was participated by Zheng showed. Among mental disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (6.4 percent), anxiety disorder (4.7 percent), oppositional defiant disorder (3.6 percent), and major depressive disorder (2.0 percent) have the highest prevalence among children and adolescents.

China is working on offering support to lifecycle mental health to its citizen. Mental health is part of China's current child's healthcare standards, meaning mental health of children is just as important as children's immunization. Using the country's healthcare system, all children should enjoy the benefits, Zheng said. 

China's top-level policy for mental health among Chinese teenagers is comprehensive, it could even be said to be in a world-leading position. But the inequality in terms of medical resources, economic input, talents, and awareness among regions in China are also prominent, Zheng noted. 

Data that Zheng presented at the event showed the number of professional psychiatrists in China is 0.04 for every 100,000 people, which is behind that of the US, that's two professional psychiatrists for every 100,000 people. 

More should be done to improve the country's support for the mental health of adolescents.

Co-hosted by the National Center for Mental Health and UNICEF China, the event gathered representatives from the government, UN organizations, experts and young people, hoping to start conversations and end stigma around the mental health of adolescents.