At the invitation of Equality and Justice Initiative (EJI), China, I visited China between 26th January to 30th January, 2015. The objectives of the visit were multifold, including:
1. Work on relationships of EJI with emergent user and survivor group in China (CNUSP), and other stakeholders
2. Conduct 1 day training on the UNCRPD and
3. Meet and dialogue with a variety of stakeholders in Open House, including psychiatrists, lawyers, social workers, family members, etc.
I had a number of new learnings. Contrary to my expectation, China does have a small, but very engaged social work community, who are involved in community mental health. The CRPD training with social workers and users and survivors was also well received. The social workers stayed on for 2 days through not only the training but also on the day which was open stakeholders meetings.
The possibility of EJI anchoring dialogues across multiple stakeholders was experienced in the days of the exchanges, as well as expressed as a possibility for the future.
The visit to the rather high profile Ghonzhou mental health center was very useful, which are using a wide range of technologies and practices to bring the best of care to people with ‘mental illness’. However, there is discrimination in that, those alternatives are offered only to voluntary patients. A small number of involuntary patients (20%), while not in seclusion, are medicated against their will and involuntarily interned. The doctors are very concerned that their model should be made more widely available, and are talking a lot about community mental health. In their setting, they offer music therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, biofeedback, group therapy other than counselling.
This model of integrating mental health care in general hospital setting is a window of opportunity, and I was happy to find that such a model exists in China, not offering just medication but a wide range of alternatives. The doctors are very much concerned about the health care of their patients, however rather strict on the idea that some people need sequestration. I was informed that South China has the most innovative programs in all of China, and that North China is highly institution based. But at least now, we know that possibilities exist for change.
Exchanges with family members, social workers, and humanrights lawyers, along with users and survivors of psychiatry all in one room, was a very intense one, more information sharing and mutual dialogue.
Finally, I facilitated the emergence of a new organization in China, ‘CNUSP’, which met physically and began the process of organizational building. That’s a tough one!!
Bhargavi V Davar, Pune
Ken, a dear social worker and friend of the Bapu Trust, took me out to dinner at a traditional DimSum place. Being used the quintessential ‘chinese momos’, this exposure to the ‘real stuff’ was transcendental. Some pictures herewith.