Preliminary Research

When browsing the internet for more information regarding the viability of my topic, I found a particular article, written in 2012, about the state of mental health treatment in China.  Originally, I had been worried about pursuing my topic.  I feared, due to knowledge bestowed upon me via the psychology textbooks I had studied intensely, that I would arrive in China, ready to do my ethnographic fieldwork, only to discover that depression was still so taboo in China that any mental health centers were very underground.  I had always been taught that mental illness is less acceptable in collectivist culture as it indicated a problem with the group as a whole.

Based on this article from Caixin online, the numbers are shifting.  The article draws attention to such facts as, depression is the second most commonly diagnosed disease, and, the Chinese government spends around 52 billion yuan, a little more than 8 billion dollars, every year on costs resulting from depression.  The figures attesting to an upswing in the frequency of depression, or perhaps the upswing in diagnosing the disease, continue throughout the article.  The article quotes the number of diagnosed cases at about 50% for outpatient and 40% for inpatient, mental health wards, treatment.  The rates on suicide are alarming are around 250,000 deaths per year.  Further, the Philips survey, 2001-2005, found 88% of the mentally ill as never having received any sort of professional help.  Finally, the follow-up statistics on mental therapy were also low, at around 45% of previously diagnosed patients receiving help in the past 6 months, 2001-2005.

The implications of the numbers and information found in this article are very likely to impact my ethnographic field research.  First, as previously stated above, I am now more confident in my ability to find a location to conduct my research at.  Second, while I am now more acutely aware of the presence of mental illness in China, I am also aware of the fact that mental illness is somewhat looked down upon.  The article reminisces about a particular anecdote about a man who is torn as to whether or not he should enter a clinic to receive treatment for his disease.  He was afraid that, by receiving this diagnosis and treatment, other people would assume he was “mad”.  It seems that, while there is a spike in mental health facilities being opened for the public’s sake, the public seems less and less receptive to the problem.

The only question that remains: where do I go from here?  I believe this article has pointed me in the right direction as far as getting a basic understanding for the current state of depression and mental health in China.  Further, the article notes one particular clinic which is located in Beijing which does not appear to be too far from campus, opening up another possible spot to conduct my research at.