TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s plan to provide three free psychological consultations for people between the ages of 15 and 30 beginning Aug. 1 received an overwhelming response from the public, quickly outpacing the ability of hospitals and clinics to provide such services.
Initially, the program was intended to benefit some 6,000 people across Taiwan. At the present moment, appointments for such counseling are full in Taipei and Taichung, and disappearing quickly in New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, per UDN.
Ministry of Health and Welfare Mental Health Department Director Chen Liang-yu (陳亮妤) said some counties and cities have proposed increasing the budget for such services. Chen says that Taiwan’s program to offer free counseling services is the first in Asia.
"Due to the newness of the program, the allocation of available psychology counseling services should be dispersed according to the distribution of local students and young people, with each city being a little different," said Chen.
Chen noted that many counseling sessions were made available in Taipei and Taichung, but were quickly filled due to related factors such as urbanization and population density. Other factors include the recent COVID pandemic, which worsened psychological problems among young people due to isolation and missing out on important events.
Chen says that young people experiencing depression and anxiety during the COVID pandemic were also unable to seek out medical treatment due to limited hospital resources and pandemic prevention measures exacerbating personal issues, leading to a pent-up demand for counseling.
Another factor is generational differences. While those aged 40–50 may be afraid of the stigma of seeking psychological counseling, this is not the case for those aged 20–30, who are more comfortable discussing their troubles.
Another issue affecting the increased demand for counseling services is rising rates of parental divorce, internet usage, and a lack of socialization. These factors are spurring mental illness and depression rates to rise.
For mental health professionals like Chen, the overwhelming response to free counseling services for young people is encouraging because it shows the public is very receptive to such services. Though some cities and counties have insufficient funds to expand the program, it’s hoped that better planning can provide the counseling services that Taiwanese youth need.