Fri, Apr 09, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Yaung backtracks on ‘mentally ill’ singles comment

NUMBERS TALKStatistics show that there is a link between remaining single and developing some form of mental illness, the health minister said yesterday

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) yesterday acknowledged that describing single people as “mentally ill” was inappropriate, but stuck to his previous comment that the link was “statistically defensible.”

Yaung caused an uproar on Wednesday when during a legislative Social and Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee session on encouraging people to get married, he said that those who remain single are more prone to suffer from “mental illness” (精神病, jin shen bing).

The remarks drew the ire of legislators across party lines yesterday, who urged Yaung to apologize. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾), who is unmarried, called Yaung’s remarks “inappropriate” and accused him of discriminating against people who are single. KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said that although he is single, “I am perfectly mentally healthy and normal.”

At the press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, Yaung said he would like to apologize for using the word “mentally ill” in his previous remarks because this might imply some kind of prejudice against psychiatric patients, adding that he did not mean to give them a bad name.

“Mental illness is just a kind of physical ailment. Maybe I should not have used the term,” Yang said.

Yang, however, said his opinion hadn’t changed, adding that he did not fabricate the correlation between being single and mental illness because single people often lack family support.

“[The linkage] could be substantiated by medical statistics,” Yang said.

He said an individual’s choice to get married or remain single should be respected, but “the more people who form a family, the better the society.”

At a separate setting yesterday, KMT Legislator Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲), who heads the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, said married people are not necessarily more mentally healthy than those who are single because people who are married have to shoulder more family burdens, adding that Yaung should refrain from making such comments.

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