September 19, 2005

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Suicide in China

The Independent of Britain ran a story on the high suicide rate in China - 250,000 people killed themselves last year; according to the article they were victims of the country's fast changing society. Unfortunately, numbers on that scale look shocking to anyone not from China, including the article's author. You would need to look at the rate per 100,000, which is the measure adopted by most countries globally. There you discover that China is slightly lower than the global norm of 25 per 100,000 as provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2000. However, that rate is certainly increasing if you compare it to the rate of China in 1999 of 13.0 for men and 14.8 for women, a worrying trend.

The article does bring up other interesting points though, even if it skims the details. There are apparently only 4,000 fully-trained psychiatrists in all of China - and because they deal with the mentally-ill, they only get paid a measly RMB 2,500 a month. Not the career opportunity of choice then, to floow in the footsteps of Freud and Jung. Also, more women than men kill themselves in China, the opposite of world trends. They are apparently overwhelmed by the suffocating lack of opportunity in China's rural countryside, and tend to use pesticides to do the job.

With such poor levels of available care and help, callers to a Beijing suicide prevention hotline are often calling from as far away as Tibet. It is a wonder that the numbers are not in fact higher. Is it in spite of, or perhaps because of the fact that modern-day China has no social safety net? This table shows suicide has always been more a disease of developed societies. But as at least some parts of China begin to qualify, it may need to strengthen its suicide prevention programmes.

posted by HK Dave on 09.19.05 at 09:24 AM in the


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The interesting thing is that China is pretty much the only country in the world (there may be one or two small ones out there I'm overlooking) where suicide rates are higher for women than for men.

posted by: GaijinBIker on 09.19.05 at 10:10 PM [permalink]

Yes, it really is quite unusual, particularly in a country where men are rapidly outnumbering women. I would hope that eventually, the natural social value of women to society will be recognized, and that that will cause an improvement for their opportunities in life.

posted by: HK Dave on 09.20.05 at 11:45 AM [permalink]

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