As of the year 2017, about 1.5 million people in Taiwan experience some form of depression. Much like many other Asian populations, mental health issues within groups ranging from young children to prisoners to middle-aged adults heavily afflict Taiwan. With conflicts related to school bullying, family, structure and support, lack of available treatment and workplace violence, deterioration of mental health in Taiwan is something that many Taiwanese people experience. Evidently, mental health is indeed a pressing issue that calls for urgent alleviation.
Mental Health in Taiwan
A 20-year study from 1990 to 2010 utilized a Chinese Health Questionnaire to examine the prevalence of common mental disorders (CMDs) among over 10,000 Taiwanese adult participants. The study showed a doubling in probable CMDs from 11.5% to 23.8%. However, amid rising levels of mental illness in Taiwan, there is also a rise in efforts to dispel stigmas, implement more effective programs and make amendments in already established legislation. There are people and groups beginning to recognize and work towards both reviving conversations and seeking out solutions related to mental health.
The Mental Health Act of Taiwan
The Ministry of Health and Welfare first established the Mental Health Act of Taiwan in 1990 with the objective of promoting mental well-being, treating mental health issues and supporting patients and their families. In 2007, policymakers implemented an amendment to the act to put patients and their families first. Many policies, prevention and resource allocation thereafter were then based more heavily upon the input of those who have actually experienced mental health issues along with their family members.
One of the larger impacts of the amendment was that compulsory admissions needed to receive approval from the Psychiatric Disease Mandatory Assessment and Community Care Review Committee. The number of compulsory admissions, or involuntary admissions, decreased by 83% in comparison to 2006. This change showed Taiwan’s commitment to developing a more detailed plan for protecting patients’ safety and rights. The amendment also drastically impacted the way that psychiatric institutions function in that there were new requirements related to post-treatment procedures, providing assistance for the patient’s family and encouraging community-based rehabilitation. All of these changes were the result of efforts to enhance protection and treatment for those who face issues with mental health and illness.
Women Anonymous Reconnecting Mentally (WARM)
The issue of mental health in Taiwan often carries a negative connotation and many associate it with shame and self-accusation due to very traditional and Confucian values. However, there are now emerging support groups that allow people to voice their struggles and relieve the burden that they might feel. Women Anonymous Reconnecting Mentally (WARM), co-founded by Vanessa Wang in 2017, is the first women’s support group based in Taipei that aims to combat stigmas against mental health by allowing women to share their hardships without feeling ashamed. Though it does not provide professional treatment, women who attend these weekly meetings have expressed that they have found comfort through listening to and speaking about their own struggles.
Having been featured in the Taiwan Observer, Taiwan News and Taipei Times, WARM is quickly expanding its reach. WARM’s Facebook group has over 500 members and is continuing to grow. The issue of mental health is now experiencing more exposure and the process of reconciliation is beginning with these kinds of support groups. Many are slowly realizing the importance of reshaping the narrative around mental health.
The Mental Health Association in Taiwan (MHAT)
Founded in 1955, the Mental Health Association in Taiwan (MHAT) is another group that works with promoting mental health awareness, prevention and treatment. In 2017, it began to target mental health issues within schools through promoting techniques of mindfulness and books related to mental resilience. MHAT’s current goal is to educate young children, teachers and parents about mental health and resiliency. As a diverse group of people who work in various professional fields, MHAT has previously assisted in drafting and promoting legislation related to mental health. It has completed work with and related to the Mental Health Act, the Department of Mental and Oral Health and more.
Over time, mental health in Taiwan is becoming a more popular subject of conversation. There are increasingly more groups and pieces of legislation that advocate for these kinds of issues that will, in turn, raise awareness and encourage more positive attitudes surrounding mental health.
– Grace Wang