China passed a new law to keep people from being hospitalized against their will and treated when they don’t need treatment in a mental health facility. About 80% of mental health admissions are involuntary. Psychiatrists will still be able to recommend a patient for hospitalization, but police, family members or other enemies of an individual can no longer do so.
It took over 25 years to get this new law passed. The first draft was written in 1985, back when Den Xiaoping was in charge. Xiaoping would receive Time’s Man of the Year award for 1985 because of his economic reforms.
Chinese citizens could be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital and submitted to any number of unnecessary and often inhumane treatments for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with mental illness. People could be re-committed again and again until they actually become mentally ill from the treatment.
For example, a business owner could have a cranky employee committed. Family members who hated other family members used the Chinese mental health care system instead of hiring a hit man. Political prisoners and even the more usual type of criminal could be committed in order to quiet a whistleblower or other potential troublemaker.
Hopefully, this new law will free up facilities and hospital beds for people who actually need mental health care. The stress in on the word “hopefully” because many Chinese ex-pats are unsure how the law can be enforced. Patients admitted to mental health facilities will be given a right to appeal their admission according to the new law.