Experts advise clinical treatment for inability to focus during school classes
Mental health specialists warned of rising mental health issues among Chinese children and adolescents including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which now hits roughly 5 percent of them.
If left untreated, between 10 to 20 percent of those with ADHD would develop serious symptoms such as underdeveloped speech, defiance, prolonged distress or anxiety, according to experts at a news conference hosted by the National Health Commission on Wednesday.
In general, at least 30 million Chinese aged 7 to 18 have experienced emotional or behavioral problems, including ADHD, depression or selfharm, according to Liu Huaqing, head of the clinical psychology department at Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, who cited a report by the China Youth and Children Research Center in 2005.
Worse, clinical observations have found a rise in mental health issues among them, he said. He recommended professional diagnosis and treatment, and an enhanced national effort to address the issue.
The global picture isn't bright. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of children with mental illnesses will climb 50 percent by 2020, making it one of the five leading causes of disability and death.
Because of the social stigma associated with mental disabilities and a lack of public awareness, a mere 20 percent of young people with mental illnesses worldwide get proper treatment.
"In a choice between psychological counseling and a mental health clinic, I advise the latter," said Cao Qingjiu, head of children's ward at Peking University Sixth Hospital. "If a child's anxiety or depression impairs daily functioning, take them to the hospital immediately."
In Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, a middle school recently installed closed-circuit TV cameras in classrooms to capture students' facial expressions and behavioral changes to assess their ability to concentrate in class.
Cao said security cameras can help identify children with ADHD. "A fleeting moment of absence of mind is normal, but if a student keeps fidgeting and can't focus for a long time, he should go see a doctor," he said.
Liu, the clinical psychologist, described a phenomenon prevalent among his visitors at the hospital.
"Two-thirds of my patients were sent far away to their grandparents in early childhood," Liu said. "The sense of being abandoned frustrates them and renders them vulnerable to emotional anxiety."
Liu added that parents should stay close to their children as much as possible before age 6.
"No matter how busy you are as a millennial parent, it's your responsibility to rear your children and give them a healthy future."