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|Wednesday, October 31, 2001, updated at 10:31(GMT+8)|
250,000 Chinese Kill Themselves Annually: OfficialAt least two million Chinese try to kill themselves each year and about 250,000 of them succeed, making suicide a serious social issue in the world's most populous nation, according to mental health experts.
Figures disclosed here Tuesday confirm an early estimation by China's Ministry of Health that about 22 people out of every 100,000 people across the country commit suicide annually.
The suicide rate in China is above the level in the United States, Canada, and Britain, but lower than the rate in some eastern European nations such as Hungary and Lithuania, where the ratio stands between 40 and 50 suicide cases per 100,000 people, said Professor Zhai Shutao, a Chinese researcher on suicide.
In spite of the Confucian teaching deeply rooted among Chinese that one's body given by his or her parents should never be hurt, a growing number of the people in China have chosen to take their own lives in the 20th century, Zhai said. However, scientific research has only been made in recent decades.
It found that rural people and females run a higher risk of suicide than urban residents and males, and the suicide rates of young and old people are particularly high.
Zhai said the reasons why humans commit suicide are complicated. For example, some are too fragile to bear setbacks or grief. And some hurt themselves due to mental disorders.
"Sufferers of mental disorders, particularly depression, run a very high risk of suicide," he said.
Out of 1.3 billion people in China, about 16 million suffer from serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, and an additional six million people suffer from epilepsy, vice health Minister Yin Dakui said at a national conference on mental health Tuesday.
About 30 million children under the age 17 are plagued by psychological and behavioral problems, and old-age mental problems and alcoholic and drug dependence are also emerging as health problems, he said.
Professor Zhai said crisis intervention and preventive efforts can help lower the suicide rate. However, such kind of services are available only in a few cities like Nanjing, Changsha, Beijing and Dalian.
"Medical, social and psychological experts should make concerted efforts to help the most needy, including mental patients, young and old people, prison inmates, and alcohol abusers," said Zhai, who initiated the country's first crisis prevention center in Nanjing in 1991.
The on-going mental health conference will discuss a ten-year plan for improving mental health services in the country, which is expected to encourage the establishment of networks in selected areas to prevent suicides, especially among rural females.
The suicide rate among women in rural areas is relatively high in China because pesticides, which are often used as a means to take lives, are easy to obtain but difficult to control.
"If poisonous pesticides are strictly controlled, the suicide rate might well be lowered by half nationwide," Zhai said.
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