Saturday, November 14, 2009


Presenting in Kunming at the Yunnan Department of Mental Health was definitely a highlight. We were treated like visiting royalty (note the banner at the entrance to the hospital). I did a presentation all morning and Judy presented all afternoon. In return, the staff put us up in the nicest hotel in the city, paid for all our meals and entertainment. Unfortunately, what I presented they could relate to but it was not particularly relevant to their concerns. Judy's presentation, although very relevant, they had difficulty understanding how they could implement patient-centered inpatient programs. Patients tend to mill around, spending their days playing majong and watching TV, while nursing staff make all the beds on a 50 bed ward, and other institutional duties. The level of training is quite different than in our country: for a doctor 3 years of college and one year of internship. The hospital also has two alcohol rehab wards, but face the difficulty of many ethnic minorities in Yunnan province that have regular alcohol abuse as a part of their culture. Mental illness itself is heavily stigmatized in China, and the use of a therapist as in this country is not at all normalized. In fact, many people can't relate to concepts like "depression" or "anxiety". Instead, they tend to report physical symptoms, unable to identify their own emotional states.  This experience was another level of tourism than we had previously experienced: a way to involve ourselves with the people in another culture beyond the usual experience. I would love to return if they felt we could be helpful.
Judy doing her presentation