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Mental Health in China: Change, Tradition, and Therapeutic Governance



Mental Health in China: Change, Tradition, and Therapeutic Governance

Jie Yang

ISBN: 978-1-509-50299-8 November 2017 Polity 262 Pages



China's massive economic restructuring in recent decades has generated alarming incidences of mental disorder affecting over one hundred million people. This timely book provides an anthropological analysis of mental health in China through an exploration of psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychosocial practices, and the role of the State.

The book offers a critical study of new characteristics and unique practices of Chinese psychology and cultural tradition, highlighting the embodied, holistic, heart-based approach to mental health. Drawing together voices from her own research and a broad range of theory, Jie Yang addresses the mental health of a diverse array of people, including members of China's elite, the middle class and underprivileged groups. She argues that the Chinese government aligns psychology with the imperatives and interests of state and market, mobilizing concepts of mental illness to resolve social, moral, economic, and political disorders while legitimating the continued rule of the party through psychological care and permissive empathy.

This thoughtful analysis will appeal to those across the social sciences and humanities interested in well-being in China and the intersection of society, politics, culture, and mental health.
  • Map
  • Chronology
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: China’s Mental Health “Crisis”?
  • 1. Mental Health and Mental Illness: Concepts and Contradictions
  • 2. New Chinese Mental “Illnesses”
  • 3. Gender, Class, and Mental Health
  • 4. Stigma and Control
  • 5. Psychopharmacology, Subjectivity, and Psychiatric Hospital Care
  • 6. Counseling and Indigenous Psychology
  • 7. Happiness and Psychological Self-Help
  • Conclusion: Psychologization and Therapeutic Governance
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
"Jie Yang has written an effective review of the recent history of mental health research and mental health problems in China. In a short space it tells the main history, gets at important issues and will prove to be useful. I will use it in my teaching."
Arthur Kleinman, Harvard University

"Mental health in twenty first century China is a significant challenge. The pursuit of wellbeing has been mobilized as a state project while embraced by it's citizens. Yang offers critical insights onto contemporary experiences of distress and the local forms of healing that have proliferated in response to deep anxieties."
Nancy Chen, University of California Santa Cruz

Mental Health in China offers a systematic, up-to-date survey of China’s mental health issues, including their manifestations, conceptualisations and interventions. […] But what truly distinguishes Mental Health in China is its attentiveness to the intricate ways in which ‘therapeutic governance’ has been enmeshed in China’s historical, cultural and economic contexts. […] Yang very capably reconstructs the convergence of various intellectual sources – ancient Chinese thought, socialist legacy, and Western influences.”
The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology