Wu Bangguo (C), chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, presides over the first plenary meeting of the 29th session of the 11th NPC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 23, 2012. (Xinhua/Fan Rujun)
BEIJING, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Measures to increase government spending on mental health, training of medical workers and promoting public awareness about illnesses have been outlined in a draft law.
The mental health draft law was tabled for its third reading on Tuesday at the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, after two readings last October and August this year.
According to the draft, governments at all levels should adopt effective measures to improve the mental health of people and help prevent mental disease.
Some lawmakers argued that the country's medical institutions have lagged behind regarding the prevention and treatment of mental illnesses, the report from the Law Committee of the NPC said.
It added that most general hospitals do not have clinics specializing in mental illnesses and many medical workers, other than psychiatrists and psychologists, lack awareness and fail to effectively identify symptoms of mental disorders.
Lawmakers suggested that the law should help improve medical institutions and workers, the report said.
The draft law regulates that general hospitals should set up mental illness clinics under the guidance of government health departments. It added that medical workers should be trained.
In addition, the bill includes a provision asking the government to provide a special allowance for medical workers at mental health institutions, as their work is of high risk and their income is relatively low, the report said.
The bill also highlights the duty of family members of people who suffer from mental illness. Under the draft law, family members bear the responsibility to send them to hospital as soon as possible, and take care of them if they are not institutionalized.
To fully protect the legal rights of people with mental illness, the current version of the bill, after two readings, added the protection of their property, besides their dignity and personal safety.
China currently has about 16 million people with severe mental disorders, according to the Ministry of Health.
However, the country only has about 20,000 registered psychiatrists, or 15 psychiatrists for every 1 million sufferers. The number of mental health institutions and doctors lags far behind need.
Besides improving treatment, the draft law is also expected to eliminate abuses and protect citizens from undergoing unnecessary treatment or illegal hospitalization.