Is mental health treatment reserved only for privileged people in Taiwan? The question made the news again following a violent incident in Pingtung County last month, while calls to expand coverage for counseling made headway with a forum last week held by the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA).
The problem is long-standing — people seeking psychological counseling in Taiwan either have to pay steep prices out of pocket or wait for months to receive affordable services.
A petition to have counseling services covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI) system was launched in May and gathered more than 5,000 signatures, leading to the forum that included signatories and experts.
The NHIA said the government has established 385 community mental health centers across the nation since 2015 that provide free or low-cost services to more than 20,000 people annually.
However, an expert at the forum said few people have been using the service, with some psychologists not seeing a single patient during their shifts. Some of these centers are doing well, while others appear to be understaffed and can only accept suicidal people or those with mental disorders, a participant at the forum said.
While the centers were not the main topic of discussion, the issue needs serious consideration, lest it become another well-intentioned venture that turns into a waste of public funds. The services are already in place and if they are utilized fully, they can help alleviate resource shortages and reduce waiting times.
While more advertising and education could help, the real problem is the stigmatization of mental illness, which dissuades people from seeking help, especially at community clinics where they might run into people they know.
Lawyer Lu Chiu-yuan (呂秋遠) yesterday wrote that someone had sought him out for legal advice on how to prevent a mental health clinic from being set up in their community, which is disheartening.
The clinics are not enough to serve the roughly 2 million people who sought help last year, a number that would increase.
Getting people the help they need as soon and as consistently as possible is crucial, and people should not be only talking about this when violent incidents happen. That only helps reinforce the stigma that all mental health patients are dangerous.
Several experts at the forum agreed that the NHI should cover mental health services, noting that increased accessibility would allow people to get preventive help before their symptoms possibly worsen and they become a danger to society.
However, psychiatrist Kuo Hsi-ching (郭錫卿) said that psychological issues are different from serious mental disorders, with the latter already covered by the NHI. He equated the situation to “having high blood pressure, a precursor to a disease, but not yet a medical condition.”
However, people should seek help when their problems are still manageable, as that ultimately saves costs for themselves and the public health system in the long run.
Furthermore, letting mental health issues go unchecked is different from having high blood pressure, as the former could put other people at risk.
The government should provide incentives for hospitals and psychologists to make mental health treatment more accessible. There are many details that need to be worked out, but expanding NHI coverage of mental health treatment is a worthy goal.
Far from signaling the end, a grim new consensus between Taipei and Washington must now spur a new beginning that ensures Taiwan’s survival. Military leaders in Taipei and Washington now agree there is a growing chance that by the middle of this decade the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership may decide to use its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to attack, or even invade, Taiwan. On October 6, 2021, Taiwan Minister for National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) told members of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, “By 2025, China will bring the cost and attrition to its lowest. It has the capacity now, but it will
As a recipient of Taiwan’s Medigen COVID-19 vaccine, I am unable to return to my homeland, Canada. More precisely, Canada would allow me to return as a technically unvaccinated citizen, subject to quarantine and the expense that entails, but I am forbidden from exiting Canada through an airport, even when I have met the vaccination requirements of my destination country. That means any visit to Canada must become a permanent one. Stepping on Canadian soil carries the consequence of renouncing my life in Taiwan — my job, my home and my friends. The idea of not being allowed to leave your country for
Ever since former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was recalled last year, “Han fans,” as well as the KMT hierarchy, have made pro-Taiwan lawmakers their enemy No. 1, and Taiwan Statebuilding Party Legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) has been on top of that list (“Recall part of ‘generational war’: expert,” Oct. 19, page 3). Chen has always been one of Han’s harshest critics, and Han fans have vowed revenge. Former legislators Yen Kuan-hen (顏寬恆) and Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), being such sore losers, were not amused about losing to Chen democratically and have amassed significant resources backed by
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) on Sunday admitted that he had been an informant for the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government. Huang wrote on Facebook that while he was a student in the 1980s, he was approached by intelligence officials, who threatened him after he had befriended alleged dissidents and forced him to work with the authorities. Fellow DPP lawmakers praised Huang’s courage in admitting his wrongdoings, with one lawmaker encouraging him not to resign from the party — as he had announced he would do. Conversely, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) used the opportunity to accuse