Updated: Oct 27
A new web television series, called The Bad Kids (Chinese: 隐秘的角落; pinyin: Yǐnmì de jiǎoluò), tells the story of a web of consequences birthed among different families after three children accidentally film a murder. From the contradictions of good and evil, life and death, innocence and conspiracy, this TV series refines a topic worth thinking about: growth and change. The three main leading roles gradually show more and more deep shadows as they grow. This TV series perfectly presents how Chinese parents communicate with their kids: they think, whatever they do, is all for kids’ good and, no matter whether this kids understand this or not, they will not explain their actions. However, the kids are being ignored all the time.
Communication between parents and children is always a big issue in Chinese families because they don’t have a right way to build the connection. All the arguments will often end in silence, those unfinished issues will then be planted inside the children. Children don’t have the chance to learn how to talk about their feelings. This bad communication will mean the children stay away from their emotional feelings.
Besides communication, Culture barriers are harder to overcome. Chinese people have inherited ideas, beliefs and knowledge about mental health. They often regard people with mental health issues as "crazy". These different explanations and understandings of mental illness can stop people from seeking help and interacting with health professionals. Self-control and solving one’s own problems are valued over seeking help.
Shame is another reason that people tend not to seek help. When they know that they might have some mental health issues, they are more likely to brush it under the carpet and ignore it. Like an ostrich burying its head in the sand, they may hope that the issues will go away with time. “Be good and behave”, is a common requirement from Chinese parents, but they don’t know behind this, the fear of looking bad in front of others will put a big mental issue on their children.
Mental health is as important as physical health, however, there is still some stigma in people’s minds, especially in the Chinese community. When I was doing my placement in China, I saw many people come to the hospital, seeking a quick solution to their mental health issues. They knew there was something wrong with their mental health, but they did not know how to deal with it. The only way they knew was to treat their mental health the same way as their physical problems. Whilst they would not be ashamed about being physically ill, they felt it was shameful to have mental health issues. They just want some pills to reduce the symptoms.
Well, how can we make a move to change current situation? Especially this year, as people around the world have suffered from the effects of COVID-19, mental health services are likely to be the new frontline for the next few years.
1. Improve access to health care services for Chinese people with mental health needs
Here are some websites where you can find Mandarin speaking counsellors and organisations in the UK. It is important to enable the voice of Chinese clients to be heard, through providing language and cultural support.
2. Improve the experiences of Chinese people with mental health needs using health care services
Improving communication and understanding between health professionals and clients across all client groups and in all settings, including general practice and community mental health services. The use of interpreters to communicate complex mental health concerns is important, because Chinese clients may have little faith that health professional have understood their problems. In this way, we can build a two-way bridge between Chinese clients and mental health professionals, to help reduce the stigma around mental illness within the community. Providing emotional and practical support to Chinese patients and their families will also be beneficial.
Counselling is still a luxurious activity for most people. However, many people's lives could be improved if we break the stigma around mental health issues, try to understand it more fully, and offer support to those affected.
Yang Peng (Penny)
Reference: Evaluation of a Chinese Mental Health Advocacy and Support Project Lucy Tran November 2009