Suicide Epidemic in China

September 11, 2007 - by Robin

I read in China Daily today that China has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Chinese people are taking their own lives in record numbers. According to a study by the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center, approximately 287,000 people a year are killing themselves ĘC that is a whopping 786 a day, more than double the U.S rate. Millions more make unsuccessful attempts. China is also one of the few countries where rural suicides outnumber urban suicides. The suicide rate for women in China is 25% higher than for men, and the rural rate is three times the urban rate. In Western countries, men are at least twice as likely and sometimes four times as likely as women to commit suicide, studies show. But in China, being young, from the countryside and female is an especially lethal combination. So what actually causes these young rural women to end their lives in such a way?

Because the women who commit suicide are almost exclusively poor, their desperation is a stark reminder of the social inequalities that plague China and the difficulties hindering government efforts to raise rural standards of living. Due to the lack of social security in rural China, most of these young women live with their extended families. Despite the fast-paced modernization of cities, women in such families in the countryside have been left to face what they consider insurmountable obstacles, often stemming from the traditional view that wives play a subservient role in the household. When their dreams and reality do not make match or if they cannot solve their problems, they commit suicide to put an end to their depression. In addition, with many husbands leaving their villages to go and find work as migrant laborers in the cities, women in the countryside have less support in dealing with the traditional pressures of motherhood, farming and moving in with their in-laws. Having access to pesticides does not make things better - a very painful but effective way to commit suicide (Studies show that 58% of all Chinese who commit suicide use pesticides). For some of them, committing suicide is not only a way to escape suffering, but also a way to exact revenge, since many Chinese people believe that the dead can return to life to get even with their enemies.

It is interesting to note that some of my Chinese colleagues actually thought that suicide rates were higher in urban areas. I guess this is normal as most suicide cases that take place in rural areas are ignored. Political, academic and media attention have been focusing on depression among young urban intellectuals who are at the forefront of China's economic boom.

1 Comment

  • 1. Sherry Guo  |  September 12, 2007, 3:07 pm

    Wish everyone healthy and happy! Cherish life, cherish family, cherish friends, cherish lovers, cherish everything nice in our life!

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