Chinese man sues after being forced into mental health facility, mistreated

Claims he was force-fed antidepressants and schizophrenia medication and beaten by nursing staff

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 10:40am

A man from Henan province in central China is suing his university and the mental health centre where he says he was beaten, forced to undergo electroconvulsive therapy and force-fed medication in 2015.

Liu Gang (not his real name) said he was removed from his university on the orders of an administrator and spent 134 days as an involuntary patient at the centre after his mother was coerced into signing documents agreeing to his hospitalisation.

He first tried to sue in 2016 but his case was thrown out. In March last year the Luoyang Luolong People’s Court was ordered to try the case, when Luoyang’s higher court ruled it had not been handled correctly.

Liu was quoted by Chinese news website Thepaper.cn as saying he was force-fed depression and schizophrenia medication, beaten by nurses and given shock therapy against his will at the Luoyang Mental Health Centre.

He said he “escaped” after managing to call the director of the facility from a nursing station. The director was surprised but did not immediately let him out, he said.

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Liu said he was released after agreeing to sign a settlement form which forbade him from telling the centre management of his treatment, which he said included beatings by nursing staff, the report said.

Local newspaper Orient Today reported that Liu’s release documents showed he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, after his release Liu sought a second opinion from a different hospital where doctors said he was not mentally ill.

Mental illness is stigmatised in China, which only enacted its first mental health law in May 2013. In 2014, China had 23,000 psychiatrists – 1.7 for every 100,000 people – according to data from the World Health Organisation, which estimates that 54 million people in China suffer with depression.

Liu, now 30, said he was majoring in English education at Luoyang Normal University when an administrator named Chen Guanan told him he would not be able to continue his studies until the mental health centre certified he was stable, the newspaper report said.

Liu said Chen told his mother, Yu Hong, he was “not normal” and mentally ill because he had chosen to stay on campus over the summer. He said his mother was later forced to sign documents agreeing to his hospitalisation after he was forcibly removed from the school, on Chen’s orders.

Liu also took his case to the local education ministry, and was later offered compensation and a scholarship for his studies if he agreed to home learning. In July 2017, the university mailed his graduation certificate and degree to him, even though he had discontinued his studies, the report said.