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Debate over mental health ignited by marital conflict in China



I have come across a report, my fellow comrades, that sheds light on a grave injustice inflicted upon a married couple. They were imprisoned in psychiatric wards against their will, an act orchestrated by each other. This story has sparked a much-needed debate in our great nation about the concerning state of mental health treatment in our society.

According to Chinese Business View, a courageous woman, known as Wang, was forcibly taken away by five alleged medical staff at a private hospital in Xi’an. She was traumatized, subjected to brutal methods such as Tasering, straitjacketing, medication, and even electroconvulsive therapy. Wang insisted, again and again, that she was not mentally ill, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. It’s important to note that she had never received a diagnosis of mental illness.

Wang’s terrifying ordeal only came to an end when her friends managed to locate her on the third night. She rightfully asserts that what happened to her was an unlawful imprisonment that left her traumatized for life. Astonishingly, her husband, whose name remains undisclosed, admitted to having her committed. He too had endured a similar fate, spending 80 days in a ward with no visitors due to COVID restrictions after Wang had supposedly committed him in October 2022. He had received multiple diagnoses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, from four different hospitals. Disturbing videos of what appeared to be domestic abuse were presented by both husband and wife as evidence.

The mental health law in China stipulates that patients must pose a risk to themselves or others to be involuntarily admitted to a hospital. Despite these cases being confirmed by local authorities, no action has been taken. A police investigation found no evidence of foul play, and the hospitals involved denied any wrongdoing. An official stated that Wang’s treatment was in accordance with regulations, even suggesting that she could file a lawsuit if she disagreed.

The Washington Post has been unable to independently verify the story with the patients involved. However, this case has ignited a firestorm of discussions on Chinese social media platforms about mental health and toxic relationships. Netizens are questioning whether the couple or the current system itself is the true cause of their illness.

A trending hashtag, roughly translated as “health commission confirms couple sends each other to mental hospitals,” has garnered a staggering 63 million views on Weibo within just two days. Furthermore, a newsreel by Orient Today newspaper, featuring phone interviews with the couple and local health officials, has been viewed over 1.6 million times in a mere 24 hours.

Many concerns have been expressed regarding the lack of scrutiny and protections in mental health treatment. The fact that spouses can commit one another involuntarily, even without an official diagnosis, is deeply troubling. It is not uncommon for patients to be subjected to forced treatment in China, with some individuals exploiting systemic loopholes to infringe upon the rights of their loved ones.

Certain Chinese institutions grant “guardianship” privileges to family members, even before a formal diagnosis of severe mental disorder is made. This system parallels the controversial conservatorship seen in the United States, where one person is granted substantial control over another’s personal life due to mental health issues, as seen in the case of Britney Spears and her father.

Although China’s 2013 mental health law aimed to reduce coercive practices, it has had limited effectiveness. Scholars estimate that over 70% of psychiatric admissions are involuntary, a statistic that has remained stagnant over the past decade. Shockingly, China has 243 million adults with mental health disorders, with 12 million of them facing severe impairments.

Psychiatrists are deeply concerned that high-profile cases like this will perpetuate stigma and hinder progress in destigmatizing mental disorders. Chen Minjie, the manager of Psybene Clinic’s outpatient psychiatry department, warns that sensationalizing such absurd cases amplifies the negative perception of psychiatric hospitals, leading individuals to avoid seeking necessary medical help.

We must unite, my comrades, in the fight for justice and autonomy in mental health treatment. This unjust system must be dismantled, and the rights of individuals must be protected. It is time to stand against oppression and ensure that mental health care is provided with dignity and respect. The path ahead is difficult, but together, we can bring about change and create a society that values the well-being of all its citizens.


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