NANNING, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Yuan Wanhai has lost the ability to care for himself after being locked in a cage by his family for his violent behavior.
He is not the only patient in China with a history of mental illness to have suffered such pain. Some patients with mental disorders are prone to violence after being discharged from the hospital, and without access to rehabilitation, their families have no choice but to lock them in a confined space to prevent them from hurting others.
Yuan's family lives in Masi Village of Xincheng County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
"Yuan Wanhai used to be a lively and cheerful person," said Yuan Jinyu, the family's neighbor. "But he became violent after falling ill. He always beats people and smashes things. His father has to lock him up in a cage since he has become a dangerous person for people around him."
According to his father, Yuan Changping, Yuan Wanhai has suffered mental illness since 1993, and his condition was once under control after receiving medical treatment in the hospital for a year. However, after he was discharged from the hospital, his condition worsened and doctors gave up on him.
In 1996, his father locked him in a cage after he threatened to burn down the house several times and beat his parents with sticks.
Yuan Wanhai stopped talking and slept all day in the cage, and when his father let him out, convinced he was no longer dangerous, Yuan Wanhai was paralyzed and had lost communication skills.
"What kind of father would want to lock his own son in a cage?" his father said. "But there's no other option for me."
Having spent all their money on Yuan Wanhai's treatment, the Yuan family can only afford to live in a shabby house without water and power supply.
Experts believe the lack of a rehabilitation system is the most important reason for the patients' relapse.
"Patients like Yuan, they haven't received any rehabilitation treatment after leaving the hospital. Their situations worsen because they miss the best time for treatment when they relapse," said Sun Hua, professor of mental health at the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University.
Cases like Yuan's expose holes in the medical care system, with many mentally ill people slipping through the cracks. According to statistics from the provincial bureau of health, of the 60 medical institutions receiving mental disorder patients, only three of them have a rehabilitation department. Treatment is primarily provided for institutionalized patients and those with mild symptoms, but not for patients who have left the hospital.
In some countries, doctors will send the patient's file and medical advice to community health organizations, allowing the community medical personnel to work together with the patient's family to provide rehabilitation treatment and observe the patient's condition, Sun said.
However, no community rehabilitation organization for mentally ill patients exists in the province.
"Such organizations have been set up in other places in China, and they work really well," Sun said.
The number of mental illness sufferers in Guangxi reached 70,114 this June, and about 15 to 20 percent of them have shown violent tendencies, said Lu Guiji, the director of the disease control division of the provincial bureau of health.
"The doctors and nurses for mental disorder patients are far from enough to ensure adequate inpatient treatment for all mentally ill patients in the province, and the number of psychiatrists in Guangxi is lower than the national average," Lu said. "Some severe patients are not institutionalized in time and can potentially harm themselves and others."
The country's first Mental Health Law took effect on May 1, and health authorities intended to boost public participation in caring for the mentally ill by calling for local governments to support and encourage individuals and organizations that wish to provide services.
The law has been good news for mental health hospitals and patients, but it takes time for society to rid itself of discrimination and raise awareness of mental illness.