China adopted a mental health law on Friday in order to protect the mentally ill from unnecessary treatment and being held against their will for the first time after the government has been publicly reprimanded.
China’s mental health law will standardize services for mental health treatment and will ensure that treatment is conducted on a voluntary basis unless the patient is in great danger, the Associated Pressreports.
The Xinhua state news agency issued a statement about China’s new mental health law, which human rights advocates have been campaigning years for:
“[The law will] curb abuses regarding compulsory mental health treatment and protect citizens from undergoing unnecessary treatment or illegal hospitalization.”
Human rights advocates have championed the law for nearly two decades and say, although the law should help to make considerable changes, it still does not meet international standards because patients can be involuntarily committed without judicial review, Reuters reports.
What is significant about China’s new mental health law is that it will provide an open discourse on the subject of mental health. Nicholas Bequelin, a Human Rights Watch researcher, in New York, told Reuters that the law is a step in the right direction:
“We welcome it because having a law is better than not having one. The most important thing that this law does is it will allow civil society to step in to monitor and press for improvement in the management of mental health in China, including … pushing for greater transparency and progressive curtailment of police rights.”
It has been assumed that many troublemakers are admitted to hospitals by authorities, yet no evidence of their supposed crimes is ever presented. This tactic has been used against dissidents and petitioners in the past.
It has also been reported by state media that people have been forced into psychiatric institutions against their will.
For years, China has been criticized for its mental health care and for the lack of a law to protect patients in institutions. People were not given the right to receive an independent review of the state of their mental health.
According to Xinhua, about 16 million people are suffering from severe mental disorder.
Bequelin said that, although China’s mental health law could help many, he still worries about the the people considered troublemakers who are placed in institutions against their will.