Volunteers and patients participate in a confidence-building exercise in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.Yang Bo / For China Daily
According to a senior official of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, China had about 5.4 million people with major depressive disorder, otherwise known as clinical depression, at the end of last year. Southern Metropolis Daily commented on Thursday:
Already a major mental health issue which the World Health Organization estimates could kill more than 1 million people every year, clinical depression is on the rise among Chinese citizens. About 200,000 sufferers of the mental health disorder commit suicide each year in China. The number could be higher, as others who commit suicide may not have been diagnosed as suffering from clinical depression.
Between 2011 and 2015, sales of anti-depressant drugs soared to more than 5.6 billion yuan (0 million) from 2.5 billion yuan. Last year it reached 6 billion yuan.
Statistics suggest that nearly half of the patients visiting psychiatrists suffer from clinical depression. Beijing Anding Hospital, a leading mental health hospital, has seen an annual increase of 20 percent in the number of patients with depression-related problems.
Yet it is reported that only about 10 percent of those who suffer from mental health disorder seek medical treatment.
Civil servants, entrepreneurs, showbiz celebrities, and those working in the media have long been perceived as those most likely to suffer from depression. But recent research shows that the less educated and financially capable are also susceptible to depression.
By the end of 2015, there were about 27,700 qualified psychiatrists in China. But the shortage remains striking because at least 40,000 of them are needed to meet the basic demand.
Society's perception of depression as a stigma also needs to be overcome. Many still refuse to see depression as a "proper" disease and blame patients for "being weak".
The support and understanding of family members and friends would mean a lot to those suffering from clinical depression.