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The Need to Promote the Mental Health Law

2013/7/4 17:36:27 [稿源:Red Net - Xiaoxiang Morning News]

Zeng Jun (a pseudonym) suffers from severe schizophrenia and is kept in a custom iron cage.
photo by XiaoXiang morning news reporter, Hua Jian)

[RedNET July 4/ Shaoyang (Xiaoxiang morning news' roving reporter Xiang Jiaming and intern Wan Lijun) ] -- Every morning, a yowling cry pours out of a residential house in Shiniu village, Shuidongjiang township, Xiaodong county. If the roll-up doors are open, a huge iron cage can be seen. But locked in the cage is no wild beast, but a living, breathing man.

This post has gotten attention on the RedNET forums. On July 1st, the reporter learned from on-site interviews that this man is named Zeng Jun, is 35 years old and was diagnosed with sever schizophrenia when he was 18. His parents and the local governments, afraid he would cause trouble, simply had him locked away. The Shuidongjiang township government provided the Minimum Living Standard payments and bought him New Farm Collective Health Insurance. But Zeng Jun is not the only person with a mental illness in Shuidongjiang township, and the township has no special budget allotted for this population.

Zeng Jun's parents have previously brought him to psychiatric hospitals for treatment, but were forced to give up treatment because of the fees. Zeng Jun was initially locked up in the basement, and two years ago was put into a specially made iron cage; eating, drinking and evacuating within.

When seeing strangers, he shakes the iron cage vigorously

Suidongjiang Township' Shiniu village is located at the border of Shaodong and Hengyang Counties. When the reporters entered the village and mentioned the name Zeng Jun, villagers had trouble thinking of who that might be, but when they mentioned the person locked in the iron cage, the villagers were all able to say where to find Zeng Jun.

It's an ordinary house, but behind the roll-up door, a howling sound occasionally pours out. With the roll-up door open, Zeng Jun sits in the iron cage with out a stitch on, his hair down to his shoulders, and a pile of filth in front of him emitting a pungent stench. Seeing a stranger come, Zeng Jun suddenly shakes the cage with vigor and his eyes widen, like he want to say something.

Zeng Jun's father, Zeng Yiyun, says that most days he won't open the rolling-door, for fear that outsiders will see Zeng Jun, and also that it will excite Zeng Jun.

Since 2009, Zeng Jun has been held in captivity, first he was locked in his own basement, but he broke down the door and escaped. An iron door was put in, but it still couldn't hold him. When Zeng Jun got out, he would either stir up trouble or lie down in the middle of the road and not let cars pass, or even hit people.

More than two years ago, the village and township chipped in to make the iron cage. Every day, Zeng Jun's parents fill a lunch box with food and put it in front of Zeng Jun, and Zeng Jun eats with his hands. "Like feeding a dog. " said Zeng Jun's father, Zeng Yiyun.

Four trips to the psychiatric hospital all failed to find a cure.

Zeng Yiyun explained that he has two children in all, that his daughter is already married and that if he didn't have a mental illness, 35 year old Zeng Jun would also have started a family long ago. In truth, there was nothing abnormal about Zeng Jun when he was little and it wasn't until he turned 18 and began to routinely break doors and windows, twice setting fire to his own home, that Zeng Yiyun brought him to the psychiatric hospital for treatment.

Zeng Jun went to the psychiatric hospital 4 times. The first time, he was brought by Zeng Yiyun, who was told the local Shaoyang psychiatric hospital that Zeng Jun had schizophrenia. That trip cost more than 6000 RMB [~$1000] and didn't cure him, but because there was no more money they could only head back.

The second time, he was sent to the hospital by the local township government and was treated for over a month and then sent back by the hospital.

The third time, the township government again foot the bill to send him for treatment, and there was still no cure.

The fourth time, Zeng Jun's sister took him to a hospital in Shantou, Guangdong, where he stayed for a moth and got some medicine to bring back home.

Zeng Yiyun is already 65 years-old and desparately wants to cure Zeng Jun's illness "I only have one son, but with him in this state, who will take care of me in my old age?" Beginning in 2007, Zeng Yiyun has made several reports to the township government, the Civil Administration Bureau and many other departments, hoping to get financial support. The reports have already become a thick stack and still nobody has come to take Zeng Jun for treatment, but the local government has provided Zeng Jun's family with the Minimal Living Standard , meeting the requirements of article 69 of the PRC Mental Health Law: The Civil Administration Departments together with the relevant departments should immediately include persons with severe mental illness who are elligible for the Urban or Rural Minimal Living Standards, in those programs.


Question 1: Who decided to put him into the cage?

Family members said they were forced against their will.

Director Chen Qiuyue of the Shuidongjiang township government's Office for Social Affairs, explained that when Zeng Jun was shut into the cage the guardians gave their consent and that there were people's police present.

Zeng Yi Yun also indicated that they had previously locked his son in the basement, but he ran out. They were forced to go ahead and put him in a cage.

Chen Qiuyue said that if Zeng Jun is not locked up, either the family will send him to the hospital for treatment at their own expense to the hospital for treatment or he'd be allowed to become a vagrant.

Question two: was any major illness relief received?

The locals say that the relief fund is limited.

According to the policy, people like Zeng Jun can first see a doctor and the seek reimbursement from the New Rural Collective Insurance. If you spend a large amount to see a doctor, you can also apply for major illness relief.

In Shuidongjiang township, however, relief funds are limited. Chen Qiuyue said that in Shuidongjiang township there are a total of 1400 handicapped persons (including sufferers of mental illness), and that this year's relief assistance fund for the whole township (aimed at all township residents including the handicapped) has a total of between 30,000- 50,000 RMB [~ $5000 - $8000 USD) and that there is no special allotment aimed at the mentally ill.

Question 3: Why weren't basic public health services received?

The family says they weren't aware of the new laws.

According to Article 68 of the "People's Republic of China Mental Health Law" (hereinafter "Mental Health Law") which took effect on May 1 of this year: health administration departments of people's governments at the county level or above should organize treatment establishments to provide free basic public health service to persons with severe mental disabilities.

The Shaodong County Health Bureau's Chief of Medical Affairs, Zeng Ping, said: Mental ilness is included in the scope of national public health services. Currently, there are more than 4000 persons in Zhaoxiang county with mental illnesses who are in a psychiatric hospital. Shaodong's persons with severe mental illnesses can already receive reimbursement for treatment expenses after an initial deductible, in Shaoyang city the deductible is 700 RMB [~$115 USD], which is to say that the family of the patient need only bear this expense.

Zeng Yiyun was also still unaware of the policy to reimburse all expenses above a deductible for persons with sever mental illnesses. Reporter Xiang Jiaming, Intern Wan LiJun

[Opinions] Expert: Pressure is lacking to promote the implementation of the Mental Health Law

Lawyer Huang Xuetao, the founder of the public interest legal organization Equal Justice Initiative, has researched the protection of the rights and interests of the mentally for many years, and in her view, shutting Zeng Jun in an iron cage is extremely inhumane and unlawful conduct, "China is a state party to the Covenant on the Rights of Disabled Persons, Zeng Jun's rights have been violated. He has been deprived of his right to speak and there is nobody to speak for him. said Huang Xuetao.

Huang Xuetao thinks that Zeng Jun needs a remedy and that the government should perform its service function to protect Zeng Jun as much as possible; one issue worth considering is why Hunan's public health service resources have not reached Zeng Jun.

Huang Xuetao suggests that localities with large numbers of mentally ill persons might distinguish between them on the basis of the degree of their illness. Building this iron cage also requires expending human, material and financial resources, and Huang Xuetao thinks that these resources might be used in a different way.

The Mental Health Law has only been in effect for a short time, and, from the perspective of Huang Xuetao's research, the prospects are quite bright, except that under the present conditions, there is a lack of pressure to promote this law, but its not for lack of money; finance and government just ignore the area of mental health.

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