[ 2007-05-28 12:35 ]
|University authorities are aware of the pressure facing students
and offer help through events, such as the Students' Psychological Health
Festival pictured here at Beijing Normal University.
A bouquet of white flowers resting at the foot of a dormitory building in the
Renmin University of China carries the grief of students mourning the precious
life of one of their dear friends.
At noon, on May 16, a young woman
committed suicide by jumping off the 11th floor of the building. So far,
university authorities have not revealed her identity. Local media believe she
was a doctorate student from the literature school preparing her graduation
While some doctorate students have shown sympathy, the response of many
students has been stony silence. The apparent numbness could be a result of a
spate of college student suicides, which have occured this month.
Hu Deng, director of the Psychological Counselling Center of Renmin
University of China, admits he is nervous these days because May seems to be a
dark month for suicide-seekers on the campus.
Between March and May, college students come under the biggest pressure
because they must hunt for jobs, wait for the results of the entrance
examination to postgraduate or doctorate schools. And they also must prepare
Lacking the ability to cope with this adverse situation is a common problem
and the examination-oriented education system has largely neglected students'
mental health, he says.
Hu and his colleagues have probed into several suicide cases in recent years.
They found that a big proportion of the students had a medical history of
psychological problems, such as depression.
"Rather than seeking help from us, the students with psychological problems
tend to hide it for fear of affecting the future of their studies and
employment," he said.
Economic strain is another factor contributing to anxiety. Zhao Jie, a
first-grade doctorate student, needs to pay 12,000 yuan ($1,560) of tuition fee
each year besides expenses on food and accommodation. Like Zhao , most doctorate
students depend on family support, their own savings and income from part-time
jobs to pull them through the three years.
Zhao describes the everyday life of a doctorate student as "dry and dull". He
has to bury himself in books all day to complete the required number of thesises
published in national-level academic journals. Communication between students
even in the same class is scarce, he says.
Zhang Yanping is deputy director of Beijing Suicide Prevention and Research
Center, which is affiliated to Beijing Huilongguan Hospital. Zhang is unsure if
the spate of student suicides in May reflects a pattern or is just coincidental.
But she notes that one suicide could possibly influence another.
She classifies recent suicidal students into two groups. The first group,
which represents about 63 percent of suicide cases, has
psychological disorders, such as depression. For people with a history
of mental illness, she suggests psychological counselling and the necessary drug
The second group feels hopeless and is isolated at the time
of suicide because of excessive emotional stress caused by employment
expectations, examinations and their looming thesis.
For this group of students, suicide intervention is even more difficult,
The major issues include depression, academic pressure, romantic rejection,
family conflicts, economical difficulties and frustration because of the gap
between the job market and high expectations.
As a professional psychologist, Zhang has observed in recent years that
college authorities have been paying more attention to the mental health of
However, experts point out the media has conveyed misleading information that
the campus suicide rate was significantly high.
Zhang estimates the suicide rate among college students is only six people
per 100,000, which is much lower than 23 per 100,000 among the whole population
and more than 30 per 100,000 among people between the ages of 15 and 34.
Zhang believes that improving the mental health among students is a life-long
"The starting point of cultivating mental health is definitely not the
college campus, but from early childhood," she said.