SEOUL, October 16, 2017 – A 23 year-old university student was reluctant to go out because she had a feeling that people are always watching at her. She was hard to distinguish dreams from reality, and became sensitive to sounds. Clutching at straws, she visited Seoul City’s blutouch Website (https://blutouch.net) and took an online test for mental health self-assessment. After receiving a high score in the self-test, she consulted a professional from the Seoul Mental Health Welfare Center, and was diagnosed with a high risk state for psychosis. The Center made a medical referral and provided one-to-one consulting services to her. Now she sees much improvement in symptoms and goes to school without any trouble.
Celebrating the Mental Health Day, observed on October 10 every year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) expanded its mental health assessment services for young people to help them not miss a “critical moment” of medical treatment and get proper mental health management. The services were initially launched in 2006 and only provided at the Center’s headquarters. However, from this month, the services are being provided at three more offices of the Center in Yangcheon-gu, Jongno-gu, and Jung-gu.
The “critical moment” means the period from before apparent symptoms arise to up to five years after developing psychosis. That is often called “early psychosis.” Currently there are relatively insufficient and inadequate early detection systems especially for teenagers and young adults in Korea. They are very vulnerable to mental disease. In particular, schizophrenia can be easily occurred at the age between 10 and 35. After 5 to 10 years missing this critical moment, their mental illness easily becomes chronical.
Mental health professionals at the Center offer at least two or three rounds of face-to-face and written consulting to those who aged from 14 to 29, and after that, get assessment and medical advices from doctors to give final treatment decisions.
The SMG plans to expand the services to offices of the Center located in all of 25 autonomous districts after results-analysis of test operations of additional three centers.
An official from the Center stressed, “It is hard to realize the contract of mental disease before symptoms arise. So you’d better visit the Center’s Blutouch Website and often conduct an online self-test to take care of your mind.” Blutouch is a brand name for mental health, developed by the SMG, meaning that “We make happiness by touching people’s mind.”
Meanwhile, the SMG is making its efforts to provide better welfare services to the mentally challenged, and to abolish society’s prejudices against people with mental problems. To raise the public awareness about the mental health, a concert titled Seonmul (Gift) is being held at a small theater in the Hongdae area, where is one of the most popular places among young people, fourth Thursday every month starting from March 2017. It will be continued until November, 2017.