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Depression plagues pressured students
By Zou Huilin/Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-15 06:13

Depression, a word not normally applied to young people, has become a common word among Chinese students.

The problem came to fore again with the suicide of a doctoral student in Shanghai.

Meng Fanwu, father of student Meng Yi, recently released his son's suicide note to the public to try to curb similar tragedies in the future.

On August 20, Meng Yi a student at the Shanghai Organic Chemistry Institute, which is attached to the China Academy of Sciences jumped to his death from his seventh-floor classroom.

Meng had left a note saying he was "sick of life and depressed."

His classmate and best friend, Kang Qiang, saw the note, caught Meng in his dormitory and took him to Meng's mentor. The two tried to persuade Meng to give up his suicide attempt.

However, on his way back to his dormitory, Meng escaped Kang's grasp and jumped out of the window.

In his note, Meng Yi said he was depressed. Kang said he believes Meng's death was partly because he had lost his girlfriend, who had gone to study in the United States.

The problem of suicide attempts in China is growing. Between May and July, three Peking University students killed themselves by jumping from buildings.

Shanghai's education bureau reported a rate of 5.4 suicides per 100,000 university students in 2002 and 2003.

Fan Fumin, School of Humanities and Social Sciences professor with Beijing-based Tsinghua University, puts the blame on academic pressure, depression, inability to adapt to new environments and failure in love affairs.

"The pressure will be compounded if a person seeks perfection," Fan said yesterday.

But as the population of university students in China continues to grow, campuses have offered little in the way of counselling.

To Feng Yun, director of a psychological consultancy, that's another part of the problem.

"There is no channel to help people suffering from depression or other psychological crises who want to kill themselves," Feng said.

To solve this problem, Feng and a group of consultants are teaming up to establish a suicide prevention network encompassing seven hospitals in Shanghai.

Shan Huaihai of the Xuhui District Mental Health Centre, a member of the network, suggested that students also facing high blood pressure should have annual physical exams and mental health checkups.

"In this way, we can detect the depression symptoms in the patients before it becomes serious," Shan said. "As a result it will become easier to cure the person."

In Shanghai at the moment, there are about 3,000 psychological counsellors, all of whom have gained national professional approval. Meanwhile in Beijing, more than 70 per cent of the colleges have special psychological mentors who can offer classes or provide counselling to students suffering from depression.

Still, in face of growing rate of college student suicides, people are casting some doubts on the effectiveness of these services.

(China Daily 09/15/2005 page2)

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