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Committee calls for action on adolescents' mental health

Mounting pressures leading to more psychological issues for young people

New techniques and multidisciplinary measures should be applied to intervention in adolescents' mental health, an expert said in response to the grim psychological issues affecting students in China.

Qiao Zhihong, secretary-general of the recently established National Advisory Committee for Students' Mental Health, said key factors affecting adolescents' mental health include the education system, a fading family core and the social environment.

The score-oriented education system ignores students' personalities by evaluating all students with a single standard, said Qiao, who is also Party chief of the faculty of psychology at Beijing Normal University.

The system pushes everyone to keep working harder without achieving any individual benefit.

"Children lose the fun of life and learning due to the pressure and are very likely to have mental health issues," he said.

In 2020, nearly 25 percent of adolescents in China were reported mildly or severely depressed, and at least 30 million children and adolescents under the age of 17 faced emotional or behavioral problems, according to a report published by the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

About half of those depressed in China were school students, while 41 percent of them suspended schooling because of mental illnesses, according to a bluebook about depression in the nation last year.

The absence of core family members resulting in single-parent families, for example, or the frequent absence of one parent, can cause children mental problems, Qiao said.

"Affected by the pressure of education, the twisted care some parents give to their children casts a shadow on their mental health," he said.

Parents are expected to respect children's feelings more, rather than only making demands and putting pressure on them, he suggested.

In addition, the internet also poses threats to children's mental health. "What happens far away may affect our emotions and trigger negative thoughts about the world. These can pass to children, or they could learn more by themselves."

The biggest challenge to mental health work is the lack of professional teams. Schools and parents have made few effective moves on the issue, Qiao said.

All students at BNU, the cradle of future teachers, are asked to learn educational psychology in an effort to enhance teachers' abilities to deal with mental health problems, he added.

The National Advisory Committee for Students' Mental Health was established earlier this month to boost the country's ability to tackle students' mental health through consultation and assistance in decision-making.

Resources from various fields including education, health and non-profit organizations should be integrated to boost the development of adolescents' mental health, Qiao said.

Led by the Ministry of Education, the committee is responsible for research, consultation, monitoring, evaluation and scientific popularization of mental health work in universities, middle schools and primary schools.

BNU professor Dong Qi, and Lu Lin, president of Peking University Sixth Hospital, were appointed as heads of the committee for a four-year term.

Higher education institutes, middle schools, health authorities and hospitals are involved in the committee.

At least one evaluation of students' mental health and one major event to address concerns should be organized every academic year in each of the seven designated regions.