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Incidence of mental illness rising nationwide

By Wang Xiaodong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-29 07:18

Incidence of mental illness rising nationwide

Patients at the center in Tiancunlu participate in a dance therapy session. [Photo by Wang Jing/China Daily]

Unexpected arrival

Had he not developed schizophrenia nine years ago, Zheng (he preferred not to give his full name) might have a good job and a family, like many of his former classmates in college.

Instead, he is unmarried and unemployed, and has regularly moved between different hospitals and clinics in Shenyang and Anshan, in Liaoning province, and Beijing, usually accompanied by his father.

"I was first attacked by the illness when I was a college freshman in Liaoning," he said. "It was completely unexpected."

He is unable to remember clearly how he felt or behaved when the illness struck, but former classmates and dorm mates said he engaged in wild conversations with imaginary people, and made outlandish claims, saying he was going to marry a movie star or that he was going to the Shaolin Temple in Henan province to learn martial arts.

"One time I called the media in Shenyang and asked the journalists to visit me because I had some big news to tell them," he said. "My father later told me that he had to explain to them that I was unwell. He apologized and asked them to leave."

Zheng was forced to quit college 18 months later when his condition became worse, and he has been hospitalized at least four times since then.

His condition is stable after more than a year of treatment at Peking University Sixth Hospital in Beijing. His dearest wish is to find a job to help repay his debt to his family, whose savings have been almost entirely exhausted by treatment costs over the years.

"I feel a little disconnected from society after nine years of illness," he said.

Ma Hong, a psychiatrist who has been treating Zheng, said the young man owes his family more than just money.

"We are thankful to his parents for their persistence in getting treatment for him. He is lucky because he is very responsive to the medication, and the required dose is decreasing. Many people with schizophrenia can be cured with proper treatment and faith shown by family and friends," she said.

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