SAN FRANCISCO, May 23 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese American group has teamed up with hospitals and foundations in China to help reduce public prejudice against mental illness and decrease stigma among caregivers.
"It's my hope that our programs, specially designed for the Chinese communities here, can be brought to China and benefit the people suffering from mental illnesses," said Elaine Peng, president of Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities (MHACC), on Wednesday.
The San Francisco Bay Area-based organization has hosted a series of mental health-themed events, such as lectures, art exhibitions and film screening in Chinese communities this month, which marks the Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.
In Asian countries, including China, mental illness is a taboo that few people choose to openly discuss even if they suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, said Peng.
They feel shameful to admit having mental problems, which prevents them from seeking treatment or sharing their experiences, she said.
A 2010 report by the Asian American Journal of Psychology found that Asian Americans had lower rates of using any type of mental health-related services than the general population.
Culture-related factors, such as family conflict, perceived discrimination and ethnic identity, played a role in suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, said the report.
In the past six years, Peng has been working with U.S. universities, reaching out to Chinese communities and conducting surveys to help promote mental health services.
She has started five Chinese support groups and developed the first Chinese website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the United States. Her group now has 110 volunteers and more than 1,000 members. More than 10,000 people benefit from the group's free programs every year.
"The programs we developed are based on the characteristics of Chinese American families. We have been localizing the programs for our Chinese partners," said Peng.
So far, MHACC has established partnerships with China Association of Persons with Psychiatric Disability and their Relatives, Tongde Hospital of Zhejiang Province, Shenzhen Disabled Persons Federation and Beijing Shangshan Public Foundation.
"We have set up pilot programs at those institutions and we've heard positive feedback from our counterparts," said Peng.
Millions of people are suffering from mental illnesses in China, and many of them are in serious condition. However, doctors especially qualified ones remain in short supply.
"I heard many heart-breaking tragedies, which could have been prevented if the victims had sought treatment," said Peng. "That's why it's very important to raise the awareness of mental health and encourage people to seek professional assistance."
Editor: Li Xia