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Shanghai metro sees second suicide in 10 days

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

09:38, February 07, 2012

SHANGHAI - The city's metro saw its second suicide in the past 10 days, stirring public criticism over the metro's perceived inability to prevent such deaths.

The service of Line 2 was suspended for more than 10 minutes on Sunday evening after a man leapt from the platform around 8 pm at Lujiazui Station. The man was declared dead on the scene, and local police are still investigating the case. There are no barrier doors equipped at the station.

A women committed suicide by jumping off platform at Nanjing East Road Station of the same line on Jan 27.

Shanghai Metro Line 2, which is only equipped with semi-closed barrier doors rather than enclosed screen doors in some of its stations, has become the focal point of critics. Netizens, especially Shanghai natives, are calling for the installation of glass barrier doors with a more secure design.

A netizen surnamed Chen wrote in a post on Sina Weibo that he "highly suggests barrier doors be installed". "Compared to other lines, Line 2 and Line 3 lack safety measures, which has made them targets for people seeking to commit suicide," he said, adding, "I'm always afraid of being pushed down from the platform when too many people are waiting for the metro."

Yin Wei, an official with the Shanghai Metro Operation Company, said that the original purpose of installing enclosed screen doors was "to save energy and protect the environment not preventing suicide".

In other words, the screens, which cost about 6 million yuan ($952,000) each to install, according to Sina Finance, were designed to prevent cool or hot air from leaving the station, reducing electricity use. "It's expected to save about 20 percent of electricity," said Yin.

Such doors have not been installed on most stations of lines 2 and 3 because the stations were not compatible with the door's design.

Without making any direct comments on the suicide on Sunday, Yin said the Shanghai Metro Operation Company "is merely an enterprise, and it's impossible for us to solve the problem of suicide."

One way that the subway system can prevent suicides is by training staff to pay more attention to potentially dangerous situations during their regular patrols, said Wang Feng, a professor at the department of psychology of East China Normal University.

"It's also not enough to just put a sign reading, 'Danger! Jumping off the platform is forbidden!'," she said. "We need to create an environment that makes anybody with those (suicidal) thoughts have cold feet or give a second thought before they act."

The Shanghai subway system averages about eight suicide attempts annually, the staff at the Shanghai Metro estimated. But in 2011, there were at least 11 attempts and five confirmed dead.

"There is a chain reaction as people follow suit after reading news stories about metro suicides," said Shan Huaihai, a worker at the mental health center in Xuhui district. "Also, there is a mental attachment to dying publicly. That's why they tend to take the jump in crowded stations, such as Lujiazui or People's Square."

Anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent of suicides in China are related to mental illnesses, and Shan believes the true figure is at the extreme upper end of this range. The suicide rate has been increasing in China, which has mainly been attributed to mental diseases, drug and alcohol dependence, population migration, family and marital problems, and life pressure.

Wang worries that too much media coverage will encourage more copycats because "those with weaker minds will only pick up the negative information in the newspaper".

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