China is transforming the provision of mental health to its citizens under a new law that takes effect tomorrow. Its first national mental health legislation should have wide-ranging effects on provision of mental health services, but perhaps the most significant and controversial change is one that banishes most forms of involuntary treatment.
The law also mandates strict limits on use of seclusion and restraints and ends the use of psychiatric admission as punishment or to enforce treatment of individuals who do not have a mental illness.
It also forbids the practice of requiring patients to participate in labor or limiting their right to communicate with the outside world.
Michael Phillips, M.D., said the new law is much more comprehensive than laws in other countries. “China's experience in providing a more holistic approach to mental health problems will, hopefully, generate lessons that all countries can learn from,” he said.