The Edge of China's Mental Health
> 11/15/2005 11:59:57 AM

The Edge of China's Mental Health

Five of the ten leading causes of disability worldwide -- major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, substance abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorders -- are mental issues. These problems are as relevant in developing countries as they are in rich ones. And all predictions point towards a dramatic increase as evidenced by China's soaring demand for psychiatric services (reported by Melinda Lui and Jen Lin-Liu in Shanghai):

"China has only about 14,000 qualified psychiatrists...about the same number as France, with 60 million people—compared to China’s 1.3 billion.... China’s largest psychiatric facility, reports that its outpatient count has doubled in the past two years. Suicide—the leading cause of death for Chinese between the ages of 15 and 34—has reached an alarming pace, double the U.S. rate per capita (and impacts women more than men). Two million Chinese try to kill themselves annually...and China’s 750 or so state-run mental-health institutions can’t keep pace with the rising demand for their services."

As life expectancy continues to increase, mental health expectancy will become increasingly important. Neurotechnology will play a leading role in defining and treating mental disorders in the decades to come as Sam Barondes (Director of the Center for Neurobiology and Psychiatry at UCSF) recently shared and yesterday in an interview with John Brockman titled "New Pills for the Mind."

"The hot new technologies that psychiatric scientists are now using," he says, "include not only genetics but also brain imaging...It will be possible to correlate knowledge about genetic variation with knowledge about how specific brains operate in specific circumstances, as looked at with various kinds of functional magnetic resonance imaging." (Watch Sam's interview on The Edge).


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