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Coronavirus calling

The Economist 1843 Betsy Joles

A mental-health hotline helped residents of Wuhan stay sane during weeks of lockdown. Night after night, Du Mingjun was the person receiving their calls.

Hotlines have become a standard part of emergency response in China during times of crisis. Crisis lines were set up during the SARS outbreak in 2003, a time when there was a “psycho-boom” in China with a popularisation of counselling and psychotherapy services, according to Hsuan-ying Huang, a professor of medical anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. After the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in south-west China in 2008 hotlines were again set up to help people deal with the aftermath. 

Despite social stigma and a shortage of trained psychiatrists, support for mental health in China has grown in recent years. 

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