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Depression included in health checks of students

By ZOU SHUO | (China Daily) | 2021-11-11


Sun Fang, a psychology teacher and counselor at a high school in Hubei province, gives a lecture. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China will include screening for depression in students' regular health checks to prevent psychological issues among them, the Ministry of Education said.

In response to a proposal on preventing depression among students made this year by a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the ministry said a record of students' mental health will be established, with special attention given to students showing signs of mental problems.

A comprehensive system for the prevention of mental illness will be put in place. Schools should offer information about professional consulting and screening centers to students and guide them to actively seek help, the ministry said.

A separate notice issued by the ministry in July required universities to offer a compulsory course on psychological health to all students, who will earn two credits for completing 32 to 36 hours in class.

The notice said universities should employ at least two qualified full-time psychology teachers, while primary and secondary schools should employ one staff member in the area.

Primary school students in higher grades, middle and high school students and freshmen in universities should undergo annual psychological evaluation, the ministry added.

Tragedies are not unusual as some young students with severe mental health problems have resorted to extreme behavior or even taking their own lives.

A 16-year-old high school student in Chengdu, Sichuan province, who killed himself in May by jumping off a school building had expressed suicidal thoughts, Xinhua News Agency reported.

His online chat history with friends, obtained by police, showed signs of low self-esteem. A note found in his pocket said he had been crying about three times a week and chat messages showed he thought of jumping off school buildings every day, the report said.

Li Weihua, a teacher at the Positive Psychological Experience Center at Beihang University in Beijing, said the ministry's response will prompt education authorities and schools to put more efforts into depression prevention and intervention for students.

Schools should strengthen coordination with hospitals and help students with serious mental health problems get professional help while paying extra attention in providing them with care and support and protecting their privacy, he said.

Zhang Xiaojing, a researcher at Renmin University of China's School of Education, said the university founded the RUC Peer Consulting Center 10 years ago to enable students to offer consulting to classmates.

After receiving professional training from teachers and passing two rounds of exams, hundreds of students have become "peer consultants" at the center, offering psychological help to their classmates from an equal footing, she said.

Many said the experience had helped them to have a better understanding of themselves and helped them to deal with pressure and to form healthy relationships, she added.