Mentally ill Chinese boy chained to a pillar in rural family home

Chained boy

In a stark illustration of the condition of mental health care in rural China, news stories and photographs reveal an 11-year-old boy who lives chained to a pillar in his family's home or to his father when walking through the village.

The chains, they say, are to restrain him, as the boy often physically attacks people without provocation.

Mental illness on the rise

The story began when the boy was a year old and suffered a head injury that caused mental disorders. His father, who is mentally handicapped, and his grandfather, who is a paraplegic, have been the boy's only caretakers since his mother died of cancer.

According to the National Center for Mental Health in China, 100 million Chinese people have suffered from mental illnesses since 2009. In 2013, those numbers rose to 160 million.

Yet there are only about 1.5 psychiatrists and 2.2 nurses for every 100,000 people in China who suffer from mental illness. Nearly all of those professionals are located in cities, leaving towns and villages without resources. For comparison, the world's average of mental health care professionals per 100,000 mental health patients is four psychiatrists and 13 nurses.

The boy in chains has never seen a psychiatrist, according to his family, and has not been diagnosed with anything.


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