Researchers are worried that stigma associated with mental illness will deter patients from seeking professional help after about half the respondents to a Chinese University survey said they would not welcome psychiatric patients as neighbours. The university's psychology department interviewed 940 people over the past two years on their perceptions of mental illness. About half said they would not want a patient living next door, 42 per cent said not on the same floor and 36 per cent said not in the same building. The survey also found that 47 per cent were against the idea of setting up a psychiatric rehabilitation centre near their homes. About 15 per cent of the respondents believed that mental illness was some sort of punishment for 'sins', and 10 per cent believed the illnesses were related to fung shui. The researchers said about 15 per cent of respondents had a strong prejudice against mental illness, according to their answers to a specially designed questionnaire. Winnie Mak Wing-sze said the study found that people who tend to regard mental illness as a serious problem usually had a stronger bias. As a result, psychiatric patients were less willing to seek professional help, Professor Mak said. 'Education is needed to eliminate the stigma, which discourages patients from seeking therapy. The government should also organise activities to allow people to have contact with mental patients, so they can understand the illnesses and accept the patients more.'