Learning Chinese: Alone but alive

Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2012-7-11 17:30:06

A woman in despair. According to a recent study, women in bad relationships are more likely to want to take their lives. Photos: CFP
A woman in despair. According to a recent study, women in bad relationships are more likely to want to take their lives. Photos: CFP

Suicide risk in China is lower among divorced  and widowed  women and higher among those with more education, suggested a study by Vikram Patel, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

risk in China is lower among divorced  and widowed  women and higher among those with more education, suggested a study by Vikram Patel, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

The study, published on June 21, stated that some of the findings from India echoed previous studies in China.

For example, both countries account for 49 percent of the worldwide suicide rate; unlike the rest of the world, more young women than men decide to put an end to their lives in China and India.

In Beijing, local organizations are reluctant  to talk about the topic, while city divorce figures have doubled since 2004 to 21,000 last year, and several reports indicate a concentration of suicide deaths in Beijing universities.

In the latest available statistics, the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center reported in 2009 that the suicide rate for females was three times higher than for males.

Violence against women and girls, discrimination in the realms of education and employment, the traditional preference for male children and several other societal factors contributed to the high female suicide rate, said specialists.

Broken hearts

A 21-year-old student, who requested to be referred to as Christina Chen, thought suicide was the only way to cope with betrayal .

"He was my first boyfriend and we'd been dating for over a year. He betrayed me with a girl that I knew; she seduced  him," said the communications student.

"I considered suicide for about a week, until I bought a box of sleeping pills," recalled Chen, who went to counseling therapy for two weeks when she tried to put an end to her life.

"Whenever I thought of him with that woman," Chen paused, "I felt depressed. I thought (suicide) would be the only way to get rid of the   shame ," said the student.

Chen's father took her to the hospital in time to save her life. She went into therapy and had regular meetings with a psychologist and hypnosis sessions.

"I feel relaxed now. I know that suicide isn't an answer and life is my most cherished gift," Chen noted.

"When I mentioned divorce my wife tried to kill herself," a man wrote on China's biggest online forum Tianya.

Another report of a woman who tried to commit suicide by driving into a highway after taking a box of pills was strongly criticized by Internet users.

"If you want to kill yourself don't put others in danger; there is no need to kill yourself. You should get a divorce," wrote one user named Grace Changxiaojuan on Sina Weibo, China's biggest microblogging service.

Patel's study indicates that suicide trends may reflect  "the clash between education and the traditional value system".

It also identified changing perceptions of what is "an acceptable way of life" as women become more educated.

However, many university students in Beijing see death as the only way to cope with broken hearts, the high expectations toward single children and some even put an end to their lives because their parents get divorced.

Only the lonely

Based on suicide cases reported by Chinese mainstream  media, academics Mingjun Jiang, Zeqing Hu and Ying Cao published an article in The American Journal of Psychiatry entitled "Suicide deaths concentrated in Beijing universities."

The authors specifically pointed out a correlation  between suicide cases and the one-child policy. For years, women were pressured to abort female children and had to live with that decision for the rest of their lives.

Some Chinese girls grew up knowing their parents wished they were boys, and others were kidnapped and sold as brides.

Currently, new female problems afflict university students. Arielle Emmett, who teaches communications at the UC Denver/International College of Beijing cooperative undergraduate program, wrote about how female students led "stressful double lives" in an article entitled "The Chinese Glass Menagerie," published in Caixin magazine.

She explained how during one semester, two of her best students, both girls, revealed that they had attempted suicide.

At China Agricultural University's counseling center nearly 68 percent of student visits are from women. Many tried to commit suicide by taking pills or cutting their wrists .

Zhou Mi, a member of the Chinese Psychology Society, confirmed that in the past 20 years the government has grown aware that a State-provided mental healthcare infrastructure is crucial to deal with psychological syndromes.

"More and more experts on psychological problems work for universities and companies; the counseling services are free in most universities and hospitals have special departments to deal with mental health patients," said Zhou.

Divorce is an alternative

"Divorce can be a fresh start for women who have the right to get out of a bitter relationship," noted Shi Gang, a professor at the China Agricultural University and a member of the Chinese Psychological Society. "The law has made divorce more accessible . At the same time more women realize their self-value  and refuse spending the rest of their life with the wrong person," she added.

"Female suicide rates have actually dropped faster in recent years than male rates," said Michael Phillips of Emory University and Shanghai Mental Health Center in Emmett's article. He added that suicide crosses all socioeconomic  groups, all age groups and genders.

Phillips conducted the largest worldwide study ever on the causes and types of mental disorders in China, examining more than 63,000 cases.

His assessment was published in 2009 and became the statistical foundation for China's first draft Mental Health Law.

But studies showed that, unlike in the West, mental illness didn't afflict about a third of people who committed suicide and two-thirds of people who attempted suicide.

These conclusions contrast with findings in high-income countries where suicidal behavior is almost always associated with certain mental illnesses.

At a glance

WHO estimates that nearly 900,000 people worldwide die from suicide every year, including about 200,000 in China, 170,000 in India and 140,000 in high-income countries.

Official estimates of suicides numbered 287,000 in China in 2010, making suicide the fifth largest cause  of death in the country, and the No.1 cause of death among young people.

Chinese you need:

Suicide 自杀 (zì shā)
Divorce 离婚 (lí hūn)
Widow 寡妇 (guǎ fù)
Reluctant 不情愿的 (bù qíng yuàn de)
Betrayal 背叛 (bèi pàn)
Seduce 引诱 (yǐn yòu)
Shame 羞耻 (xiū chǐ)
Reflect 反映 (fǎn yìng)
Mainstream 主流的 (zhǔ liú de)
Correlation 相互关联 (xiāng hù guān lián)
Wrist 手腕 (shǒu wàn)
Accessible 易得的 (yì dé de)
Self-value 自我价值 (zì wǒ jià zhí)
Socioeconomic 社会经济的 (shè huì jīng jì de)
Cause 原因 (yuán yīn)

Posted in: Extensive Reading

blog comments powered by Disqus