In China, suicide is the leading cause of death among young adults aged fifteen to thirty four. A national study conducted by a group of Beijing-based psychologists has found that an estimated 287,000 people killed themselves last year. With more details on the study, here’s Chris Simkins.
One of the most troubling conclusions of the study is the high rate of suicide among young rural women. Compared to men in that category, twice as many women commit suicide as men. In many Western countries young men are more likely to commit suicide than young women. But in China, that is not the case.
The national study shows that up until recently, mental illness was largely stigmatized in Chinese society. Symptoms of depression, the most common psychological problem in China, were often missed or ignored.
This study also shows that rural women are more likely to harm themselves when distressed. Unemployment and vast social changes are one of the major reasons for the high suicide rate. Many of the suicides of rural women in China can be attributed to impulsive behavior while under stress.
The study also found that nearly two-thirds of these suicides are the result of consuming pesticides and powerful rat poisons, which are common in China. Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Phillips says that in certain rural areas, female suicide is reaching an almost epidemic proportion.
DR. MICHAEL PHILLIPS
“In some villages you go to, just everybody knows people who attempted suicide, and it’s become a frequent response of particularly young women in stress, and those again are just local, specific locations. But there you need to kind of really work on getting people to think of different mechanisms, different ways of dealing with interpersonal stress.”
The Chinese Ministry of Health has recently acknowledged the suicide problem and has set up a suicide prevention center in the capital Beijing. It offers psychological group counseling.
The Chinese Government hopes the center can raise public awareness of this problem. However, in the rural areas, where the problem is most serious, counseling is still not available.