China Mental Health Counseling is Going Digital

Mental health market overview in China

Mental health counseling is a vital service for people who are struggling with mental health issues. However, in China, where healthcare can be scarce in some fields, there are not enough mental health counselors to meet the demand. This has led to Chinese companies developing digital mental health counseling services. These services provide an affordable and convenient way for people in China to get the help they need.

China’s effort to overcome inadequate mental health services

In recent years, with the socio-economic development and the acceleration of the aging process of the population, mental health disorders have become higher and higher in China. However, the great demand and inadequate access to mental health services are major challenges for mental health care.

To overcome this problem, China has made significant efforts to facilitate people’s access to mental health diagnosis and treatment, including the promulgation of a series of mental health laws, regulations, and reforms that require:

  • multiple facilities,
  • increase in mental health professionals,
  • greater awareness.

For example, the 15-years ‘China Brain Project’ established in 2016 is focused on some mental disorders such as autism, depression, and dementia to improve mental health research in China.

What are the most common mental health disorders in China?

Currently, mental health has attracted more attention, and its service in China has been greatly expanded to include not only mental disorders, such as schizophrenia but also depression, anxiety, and other mental and psychological problems.

  • Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health disorders in China
  • However, autism, schizophrenia, depression, and dementia are also considered to be priority diseases.

Efforts in scientific research can provide important implications for neuropsychiatric medicine, in particular for the development of new strategies for effective therapeutic and preventive intervention, to combat mental health disorders in China.

Lack of mental health counseling in China

In recent years, the number of people holding a national mental health counseling certificate has increased dramatically, however, only a few of them provide mental health counseling. More than 90 percent of licensed mental health counselors are not employed in the industry.

The latter is due to the fact that the threshold for obtaining a national certificate is too low and that the professional training system is still somewhat disorganized.

Another reason could be that, although there is a growing demand for mental healthcare services, given the fear of exposure due to a relatively conservative Chinese society, many Chinese are reluctant to:

  • admit that they have a mental illness,
  • seek professional help
  • spend money as fees are considered high by most people

In fact, analysts predict that China’s mental healthcare industry will continue to grow at a slow pace in the future because of the high costs of counseling services and treatment not being covered by health insurance.

Due to these obstacles, tens of millions of Chinese remain in desperate need of mental health services, and to solve this problem, healthcare providers must come up with innovative solutions to meet the unique needs of the Chinese market.

Chinese people’s behavior regarding mental health counseling

Mental health counseling involves both mental diseases and psychological problems.

Regarding psychological problems, In China, patients tend to look for direct and immediate suggestions to help solve their mental health problems. Chinese patients are characterized by:

  • 60% of people who receive counseling are between 25 and 35 years old,
  • 50% are single and over 70% are female,
  • People working in IT, telecommunications, and finance represent the largest demography,
  • The most discussed topics are emotional problems, personal development, and romantic relationships,
  • People from regions with higher disposable income and better living standards are more willing to seek help.

In addition to traditional services, more and more people choose to use internet platforms to meet with their counselors because of privacy concerns and for convenience.

Jiandanxinli which allows mental health service providers, psychological counselors, and psychiatrists, is an example of these platforms.

Regulations about mental health counseling services in China

The Chinese government has established regulations regarding an institution’s eligibility to provide psychological counseling services, though many of these rules vary depending on the region.

Institutions that are not registered under the Administration for Industry and Commerce (Profit-seeking psychological counseling institutions) or the Administration of Civil Affairs (Not-for-profit institutions) are not permitted to offer counseling services.

In addition, the regulatory framework for foreign investment in psychological counseling services is unclear because while foreign investment in medical institutions is limited to joint ventures, it is not clear whether psychological counseling institutions fall under this category.

Online support for mental health counseling during Covid-19

According to Xinhuanet, thanks to the rapid development of social media, many universities, and e-commerce platforms provided services to those with epidemic trauma.

For example:

  • Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology have set up several psychological support groups through QQ, a popular social media platform in China.
  • E-commerce giant, thanks to JD Health, the health care affiliate of, started to provide psychological counseling for users in January, with more than 2,000 doctors offering 24-hour services.
  • KnowYourself, a public account on Wechat, brought together a team of over 100 professionals and trained volunteers to respond to requests for help from people in need
  • Also, other internet giants like Alibaba (Alibaba Group’s health care unit Alibaba Health), Baidu (Baidu jiankang, the online doctor consultation platform), and Tencent (WeDoctor) have made their online mental health care services available free of charge to Chinese at home and abroad.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese users spent 20% more time on mental health apps in the first week of March compared with the same period in January.

What are the opportunities for businesses working in mental health departments?

How can pharmaceutical companies or companies that sell healthcare products launch their products in China?

Improving Healthcare in China and pharmaceutical products is supported by the Chinese state and is a wider social ambition. In fact, the Chinese are more aware of their health problems, which are currently quite critical.

Boosted by FDI, the enormous Chinese pharmacy market (almost the 2nd biggest worldwide) offers a lot of opportunities for businesses working in health departments and wishing to launch their products in China.

The Internet has become the key tool for growth in this environment. 80% of the 750 million netizens have searched for information related to health care online, however, the implementation of efficient and innovative strategies is essential in China.

Opening a pharmaceutical company or selling healthcare products might be challenging in China because the country has strict regulations. GMA can help you understand the Chinese market better.

What is the new trend in the mental health market in China?

Go digital! Like any other product, the Chinese love to buy everything online. Chinese platforms dominate and must be used by healthcare companies to increase their visibility and reputation and to promote their product range and related health benefits. In addition, digital marketing is the most convenient method which offers a substantial ROI.

Health is one of the most important things for Chinese people. With the digitalization of their society, they tend to auto-diagnose themselves online.

Medical apps and online appointment booking for tech-oriented consumers

In China, more than 2000 mobile apps for healthcare have been launched, from simple medical advice to appointment booking to release some pressure on overcrowded hospitals.

For example:

  • Ping An Good Doctor has received exclusive permission from the government to hold partnerships with outside companies willing to invest with an ironclad condition of non-exceeding 50% of their stake.
  • We doctor, a medical app launched by Tencent’s Wechat, enables to connect patients to doctors and appointment bookings, emphasizing this feeling “It’s way more convenient than booking and visiting an overcrowded hospital.”
  • Baidu Jiankang, a Baidu App released in 2015 lets china’s expanding internet population make doctor appointments online. “Jiankang” in mandarin means health.

What is the best strategy to be successful in the mental health market in China?

In China, your e-reputation is everything, when it comes to healthcare Chinese research is more extensive than in any other sector. It is therefore vital to develop your e-reputation on forums, social media, on Baidu’s related platforms in order to instill trust, and respect, and build a quality, loyal customer base.

Therefore, companies should be present in the Chinese digital world by creating a mandarin website on Baidu, working on community management, and selling products on e-commerce platforms.

Creating a mandarin website on Baidu

First of all, you have to create a Chinese Website. Your website also needs to be hosted in China to be visible on Baidu. Before any purchase and consulting demand, Chinese patients will search on Baidu information about your company. In a sector like healthcare, transparency is the most important criterion for consumers.

Pictures, content, and videos are vital to give a good impression in the mental health market in China. Chinese consumers like quality content, reading explanations, and doctors’ testimonies when it matters to health.

Having a Mobile Application can also be a good strategy, many health companies use it to engage their clients/patients via mobile.

To make your brand accessible and visible you need a strong SEO campaign on Baidu, China’s number one search engine.

Working on community management

Forums community management

The recommendation in China is vital! There are several dedicated health forums where consumers visit to get advice and discuss product recommendations. Here you need to create a positive sentiment that is from user to user, not just from your company itself.

Working on managing the forum community is a great way to improve your reputation and also to rank highly in Baidu’s search results as these forums are highly ranked, so related content will appear in relevant keyword searches.

We help Health Businesses with Forums Marketing, and PR (Public Relations or Press relations).

Zhihu, for example, is the most used Q&A platform in China. As you can see in the following picture, Chinese people use this platform to ask questions about products and brands.


Social media community management

In China content going viral among targeted communities is highly possible because users are highly engaged and also simply because of the size of the Chinese internet.

China is a country addicted to social media platforms. In China, you can find a lot of social media platforms, some more specific than others but all very popular.

The most popular platforms in China are WeChat and Weibo. These social media have to be an important part of your marketing strategy because they allow you to gain visibility and create a close relationship with your Chinese patients.

Patient involvement in China is a healthcare marketing strategy that is committed to improving business results. In fact, it is an effective concept that combines Chinese patient awareness and company promotion. In addition, this helps Chinese consumers who want to get involved in their health decision-making.

In the following image, you can see how companies are using Wechat to talk about mental health problems related to depression for heart problems (to the left) and mental health problems for children (to the right).


Selling products on Chinese e-commerce platforms

In China, Health and Pharmacy companies have to sell their products on e-commerce platforms such as JD or Tmall.

Why? Because these platforms are very popular and only sell quality products. You can’t find counterfeits on JD or Tmall. However, these two platforms only accept high-quality brands that have a good image and a good e-reputation.

Therefore, don’t forget to create a good e-reputation!

gma agency

Do you want to know more about how to use Chinese platforms to boost sales? Contact GMA a digital marketing agency, specializing in the Chinese digital market.


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