A police officer in Jilin rescues a suicide jumper
Earlier today, Shanghai Daily reported that suicide remained the top killer for local college students in 2009. Thirteen students in Shanghai, including one international student, took their own lives last year.
This somber reality has been plaguing China for some time. In September, we brought you the news that, according to a survey, suicidal thoughts occurred among 24.39% of secondary school students, with 15.23% taking them into serious consideration. In April 2009, we also reported that suicide topped the list of the seven causes of death for local college students, with 19 occurring in 2008. To put that figure in context, it surpassed acute diseases (15 deaths), traffic accidents (12), fires (4), drowning (2), manslaughter (2), and sports accidents (1).
Last week, it was also revealed that mental illness is on the rise amongst China’s young. According to a recent national survey, 60% of university students felt isolated and 80% felt subdued and mired by sentiments of injustice.
The All-China Women’s Federation broke down some figures:
Three of 10 college respondents said they never communicated with their parents, while 25 percent will not talk to their parents unless they experience a conflict.
Nearly 50 percent said they lacked a sense of security in social interactions, and another 50 percent were not content with their lives. Two of 10 felt trapped in a state of emptiness and 60 percent often felt lonely and lost.
The report also said that 80 percent of college students complained about social inequality and some of them had developed an intense anger.
Further, according to research by the China Youth and Children Research Association (CYCRC), 30 million youths below the age of 17 are suffering from mental troubles.
Reasons for this solemn reality have been debated, but one recurring factor is the intense pressure on China’s young to succeed and pass the grueling college entrance exam. Plus, as the New York Times debated, China suffers from an exodus of graduates facing unemployment (in the past decade, the portion of graduates from Chinese universities has increased sixfold, but their expectations are outweighing actual careers).
Pan Gui-yu, deputy secretary-general of advisory organisation The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, claims China faces a “personality crisis.” Speaking to the All-China Women’s Federation, he said,
Families have failed to develop their children’s mental toughness. (…) In most cases they are spoiled and have not been taught to be independent, responsible and express due gratitude.
Yet, experts were keen to remind us of Shanghai’s comparatively low suicide ratios. Zhang Haiyan, deputy president of Shanghai College Psychological Consultation Council, told Shanghai Daily,
On average, 2.1 in every 100,000 local students took their own lives last year. It’s much lower than the international alert level of 20 in every 100,000 person.
Still, it is worrying the figures have not dropped in spite of the fact that Shanghai universities last year pledged to add psychological health courses to their health curriculum. Perhaps we are expecting too much too soon, but these figures will have to be addressed further if China is serious about its ongoing reform of mental health services.