Functions of the center
A. Suicide Related Research
1. Suicide epidemiological surveys and studies
2. The national psychological autopsy study
3. A retrospective study in general hospital emergency room departments
4. A prospective study in general hospital emergency room departments
5. Detailed psychological assessment and case-control studies of serious attempted suicides identifi ed in emergency rooms of general hospitals
6. A follow-up study of attempted suicides
7. A study on impulsiveness and aggressiveness in attempted suicide
8. Studies on attitudes about suicide
9. WHO SUPRE-MISS / START projects
10. A survey of depression among Beijing residents
11. An international depression project
12. A pesticide-control project
13. A study of the relationship of impulsiveness to attempted and completed suicide
14. A randomized control trial of a socio-educational intervention for rural suicide attempters in Shandong and Tianjin of rural China
15. Small-grants program to improve the quality and implementation of suicide-related research in China (A China Medical Board sponsored project)
B. Other Research
1. Clozapine use in fi rst-episode schizophrenic patients
2. Long-term follow-up of family intervention for schizophrenia
3. The Zhejiang Provincial Mental Health Project
4. Small-grants program to improve the quality and implementation of mental health research in China (a China Medical Board sponsored project)
1. National 24-Hour Psychological Crisis Hotline
This is the fi rst and only national psychological crisis hotline in China. Using an 800 number, it is free for callers from anywhere in the country. The hotline focuses on the management of psychological crisis, particularly suicidal ideation and behavior. The fi ve goals for each call are: 1) to provide emotional support and an opportunity to ventilate feelings; 2) to assess suicidal risk and intervene in high-risk cases; 3) to screen for overt psychiatric illness (such as depression or psychosis); 4) to help callers consider options for dealing with problems; and 5) to offer appropriate referral information.
2. Outpatient Services
Specialized outpatient counseling for persons who have attempted suicide or who are experiencing other types of psychological crises is provided at the Beijing Huilongguan Hospital Clinic Department. Psychiatric and psychological experts from the Center are available at the clinic on scheduled hours. Persons with various kinds of psychiatric illnesses, such as depression, are treated with medication and/or psychotherapy. During the past several years Center staff has treated approximately 8,000 patients.
3. Inpatient Services
Experts from our center provide inpatients of Beijing Huilongguan Hospital with services related to crisis intervention, suicide risk assessment and treatment.
4. Support Services
The center provides individual and group supportive services to suicide survivors. It also provides group services to attempters and those with depression as well as to their family members and concerned friends. In addition, website support is available to address the needs of those who live outside the Beijing area. These services are supported by Ford Foundation.
5. 24-Hour Consult Service for Emergency Rooms of General Hospitals
Currently almost none of the estimated 6,500 individuals treated for suicide attempts in the emergency rooms of Beijing’s general hospitals receive a psychiatric assessment at the time of their attempt. As a first step to overcoming this problem, our center provides a consult service for three large general hospitals in Beijing (Anzhen, Xuanwu and the 999 Emergency Center). When requested by the hospitals, center on-call doctors go to the emergency room to assess the psychological status of the individual who has attempted suicide and make recommendations for his or her treatment and management. (At present this service has been temporarily discontinued due to lack of personnel.)
6. Website Information and Counseling
The Center’s website, which opened in September 2004, provides a variety of professional and lay information related to suicide, depression and other types of psychological crises. The professional information includes suicide-related research articles and clinical training materials. Lay persons experiencing psychological crises or their family members can find detailed information if seeking help. Counselors from our center provide free e-mail psychological counseling services online. In addition an online, self-report depression assessment is available with professional feedback offered regarding the results. This project is funded by the Ford Foundation.
1. Training of Fellows
The Center provides in-service clinical and research training for a wide range of undergraduate and graduate students in medicine, nursing, social work and other fields. Placements typically last for three months, but some fellows stay for 6-24 months. Several post-graduate fellows from other countries in psychology, psychiatry, anthropology and other fields have also spent from 3-12 months at our Center.
2. Training Courses and Meetings
Our Center provides several training courses and runs several meetings each year. Some are intensive courses (e.g., on research methods in psychiatry, in the operation and management of hotlines, in the use of the SCID, etc.) are focused on a small group of 15-30 selected participants and others are large meetings for 100-200 persons (e.g., on suicide prevention, depression in university students, etc). In recent years the center has started a five-year continuous training project on Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for therapists and supervisors in collaboration with The International Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Association. Trainees of the project are 15 psychiatrists from domestic, high-level mental health institutions. Another five-year project is a collaboration with both the Mental Health Institute at Beijing University and Rochester University in the United States to run a Forgarty-supported training program for post-graduate fellows in suicide research. In addition, there have been two yearly training programs sponsored by Sino-American Medical Foundation for the promotion of research quality of suicide related projects and studies.
1. Public Promotion Activities
Our Center is actively involved in a variety of public promotion activities aimed at raising awareness about depression and suicide. We have held regular freecounseling activities in high-profile locations around the city; prepared and widely distributed information pamphlets about suicide prevention, depression, loss and grief, and so forth; and provided public education classes to Women’s Federation groups, universities, jails and other institutions as requested. We have also run a monthly lecture series on mental health issues for the general public and have maintained an active relationship with a large number of media outlets that have shown an increasing interest in psychological problems and suicide. Over the last six years staff members at the Center have appeared on about 30 nationally televised programs and in hundred’s of newspaper articles. The Center has appointed a high-level advisory group that includes well-known media personalities to assist in this public promotion effort.
There are a growing number of institutions across China that participate in suicide-prevention activities. To help coordinate and integrate these activities, our Center publishes a quarterly newsletter about national and international activities in this area to offer a timely report on the development of domestic suicide-related research and prevention.
3. Coordination of Activities of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)
Dr. Michael Phillips, the Executive Director of the Center, is the China Representative for the IASP, and the vice-chairman of the Congress of National Representatives for the IASP, so the activities of the IASP in China are coordinated by our Center. These include coordinating promotion activities at the World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September) and keeping interested professionals in the country informed about meetings and the other activities of the IASP.
4. Coordination of the Activities of the Expert Committee on Psychological Crises of the Beijing Psychology Association
Dr. Phillips is the chairperson of this committee. Academic and other activities of the committee are coordinated through the Center.
5. Promotion of Research Skills in Mental Health Professionals
Dr. Phillips is the chairperson of the Expert Group on Research Methods of the Chinese Psychiatric Association. The members of this group include prominent psychiatrists from around the country. The Center coordinates teaching and other activities for the Expert Group.
6. Promotion of a National Suicide Prevention Plan
One of the main goals of the Center is to promote the development of a National Suicide Prevention Plan for China. The Center has coordinated a number of meetings with officials from various departments (health, public security, agriculture, education, etc.) to encourage their active participation in this activity. A large meeting was organized among NIMH in the US, WHO, Chinese CDC and a variety of Chinese governmental departments in November 2003 to discuss a preliminary plan. Efforts are now directed at gaining the attention of the State Council (China's Cabinet) to consider the adoption of a national suicide prevention plan.