Vietnam faces great challenges in mental health treatment
  • By Dang Duc-Dang Le | | June 21, 2013 10:34 AM

Nearly 9 million people in Vietnam, amounting to about 10% of the country’s total population, suffer from mental disorders, and the figure seems to be on the rise in recent years.


Nguyen Thi Lien has been stigmatised by the community, except for the rare family member who will occasionally drop by to provide meager meals.

Still the country struggles to deal with this growing problem. Vietnamese health organisations estimate that there are around 200,000 "serious cases" that could pose a danger to the community. But only about 6,000 of these are treated.

One example of this problem is illustrated by two sisters in Quang Binh Province, Nguyen Thi Lien, 65, and Nguyen Thi Sau, 46. They are among those who cannot afford treatment. They have not even received treatment from social agencies.

Their conditions remain undiagnosed. Lien flies into rages and shouts at people who come into her house, while her sister, Sau, begs for food on the street. Children taunt her and even throw stones at her. They have been stigmatised by the community, except for the rare family member who will occasionally drop by to provide meager meals.

After the publication of the first article on Dan Tri, however, they have received donations adding up to VND6.87 million (USD327).

Most poor sufferers of mental illness are not so lucky. There are many people with mental illness whose families refuse to seek treatment, said Dr. Nguyen Hoang Diep from National Psychiatric Hospital No.1.

Lack of doctors and facilities

According to a survey from the Ministry of Health, the country has 17 centres for the treatment of mental illness, but many families decide not to bring the patients in.

The Minister of Health, Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, added that the capacity of these centres only meet about 5% of  the demand for mental health patients. Many of these facilities are staffed with only nurses and no doctors.

According to La Duc Cuong, Director of the National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1, a large part of the problem is poverty, which stops families from bringing in people for treatment.

Dr. Le Van Tac, from Vietnam Institute of Educational Science, said Vietnam has seen a rise in the number of children with autism. Statistics from the National  Hospital for Paediatrics showed that the children diagnosed with this disease increased from 200 in 2006 to 1,676 in 2010.

There is also a lack in proper training at hospitals and mental health facilities to diagnose and deal with the disease. 

Leave your comment on this story