China’s Approach to Manage the Public’s Mental Health

Subject: Healthcare Research
Pages: 3
Words: 564
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College

The study is being conducted in rural China, predominantly in southern parts. The research is conducted by Zhiying Ma, and the group being studied are Chinese individuals with serious mental illnesses (SMIs). The research topic addresses China’s approach to managing the public’s mental health, where some families are forced to covert pills and resort to confinement to control a person with severe mental issues. The research question revolves around the imagery of community mental health workers, and it also focuses on the reasons behind home confinements and other denounced practices. The study was conducted from 2008 to 2014, where the researcher was involved in 32-months of fieldwork (Ma, 2020). The major finding is the establishment of the reasons why Chinese governmental agencies treat mentally ill people as a public threat. They actively deploy a biopolitically paternalistic approach, where the state acts as a guide, instructor, and father. It directly intervenes into the issues of mental health and forcibly hospitalizes unwilling patients.

In addition, community mental health is built on the notion of kinship, which translates to gender roles. The mother figure was historically associated with nurture and care. Therefore, there is a slow and gradual shift towards a maternal approach in mental illness treatment, which focuses on easing the symptoms of the subjects and focuses on their well-being as well. In the paternalistic system, the state does not consider the experience of mentally ill people, because it sees the public as a collective with social problems. The focus is put on making these patients less dangerous and disruptive to the community, and thus, the SMIs themselves are not the main concern. However, the maternalistic system emphasizes care, but it still relies on two approaches being utilized.

The research was conducted through participant observation, and it goes into the field for 32 months. They spent their time with families at their homes, where people with serious mental illnesses are confined, and other odd practices are used. The research showed a maximum level of integration into the community by being in the family environment and observing the conditions of confinement personally. The author also conducted formal interviews to record the overall experience of families with SMI people. The sample size was comprised of eighty households, and they were selected on the basis that the patient needed home confinement.

The main strength of the method is the fact that multiparty assessment is possible because both family members, patients, and caregivers can share their side of the story. The weakness of the research is the lack of specificity of the sample representation and the disproportionate presence in South China. The latter statement means that the study did not observe a nationwide situation equally due to a preference for a specific region. In other words, the author discusses national issues without considering and assessing the entire country. The time allocated for the fieldwork was adequate because thirty-two months are enough to observe and interview eighty households. Therefore, the researcher focused on a thorough assessment of the issues of covert medication and home confinement in rural China. The author also spent a substantial deal of time and effort to understand the factors that lead to kinship-based approaches, such as biopolitical paternalism and caring maternalism. Deploying such a methodological framework allowed the researcher to be more involved in a family analysis and comprehend the causal elements for such harsh preventative actions.


Ma, Z. (2020). Biopolitical paternalism and its maternal supplements: Kinship correlates of community mental health governance in China. Cultural Anthropology, 35(2), 1-27. Web.