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Lin Kunhui: Outreach to those at risk

By Wang Hongyi  (China Daily)

08:13, April 08, 2013

To Lin Kunhui, children on the Chinese mainland are spoiled by their parents, a well-meaning tradition that can ironically make them vulnerable when they grow up.

The secretary-general of the Taiwan Suicide Prevention and Cure Association now spends most of his time in life skills education and suicide prevention in Shanghai.

"When I came to Shanghai in 2008, I was so surprised to see that in such a big city there was no 24-hour suicide prevention hotline," he said, noting that Taiwan's first such hotline began operation in the 1950s.

According to the Ministry of Health, about 250,000 people commit suicide in China each year, while another 2 million attempt to cut their lives short.

The first suicide intervention hotline on the Chinese mainland started in Beijing in 2002. Similar operations have since begun in Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu province.

The lack of adequate life education among local families and communities inhibits a crucial aspect of children's growth, according to Lin.

"Much work has to be done," he said. Determined to reach out to those in need in Shanghai, he founded the nonprofit Life Education and Crisis Intervention Center.

Through his efforts, Shanghai's first 24-hour suicide intervention hotline was launched at the end of 2012. More than 200 calls were received during its first week of operation.

Compared with other hotlines in the city, the free 021-5161-9995 number offers its service late into the night and into the early morning - peak times when people reach out for mental counseling.

The hotline received 1,312 calls over the past three months, 41 percent of them from people aged between 23 and 35, mostly employed in office jobs.

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