Doctors see increase in number of mental health cases

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Doctors see increase in number of mental health cases

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People in psychological therapy in Korea tend to be discreet. Even if you are undergoing treatment for a relatively minor stress-related condition, it’s best not to advertise the fact. Otherwise you run the risk of getting labeled crazy.
Yet more people than ever are seeking professional help for mental health problems.
Park, 43, who only wanted to be identified by her surname, recently visited a psychiatrist because of her son’s obsession with computer games. “I was hesitant at first because I heard it wasn’t good for kids to have a visit to a psychiatrist on their medical records,” said Park, whose son is a second grader in elementary school.
“But I was told that many people are receiving treatment for minor conditions and that there won’t be any negative feedback,” she added.
According to the National Health Insurance Corporation, 1.87 million people underwent treatment for mental illness in 2006, compared to 1.3 million in 2001.
Analysis by the corporation revealed that people tended to visit hospitals for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, chronic depression and alcohol-related problems.
From 2001 to 2006 the number of Alzheimer’s patients increased from 31,000 to 88,000 while the number of people with chronic depression increased by 48 percent.
The number of people suffering from schizophrenia or multiple personalities during the same period increased by only 5 percent. “In any society, the number of people suffering from schizophrenia tends to be at a certain level,” said Park Sang-jin, a doctor for the Ilsan Hospital.

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New policies aimed at supporting people with mental health problems have prompted an increase in patients asking for help, said Park.
Starting July, the national insurance corporation will pay for long-term medical treatments for elderly people, provided they have consulted a doctor.
Qualified patients can enter treatment facilities while the cost of using the facility is partially covered by the corporation.
People are also seeking help because law courts have recently given verdicts that depression can be caused by stress in the workplace, while the national pension system is covering people with mental illness, observers say.


By Kim Chang-gyu JoongAng Ilbo [africanu@joongang.co.kr]

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