Stressed youths look to escape
Updated: 2011-10-13 09:01
By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)
SHANGHAI - A string of recent suicides by students has prompted many to ask the question: "What's wrong with our children?"
On Tuesday, a 17-year-old surnamed Li died after jumping from the fourth floor of a building at Shanghai Beihong High School.
Knife marks were found on the boy's arms. He had also written a letter and sent text messages to his father before his suicide, but the content was not disclosed.
"The cause of his suicide is still under investigation," a teacher told China Daily on Tuesday.
The boy's parents were too upset to be interviewed on Wednesday, while most of his classmates could not be reached.
On Oct 10, another 11-year-old boy jumped to his death from the 13th floor of a Shanghai apartment building while his parents were sleeping.
The previous day, a 13-year-old boy fell from the fifth floor of a building in the same city and suffered severe but not life-threatening injures. The reasons for his behavior have not yet been disclosed.
Shanghai is not the only city that has seen a spate of student suicides.
In Jiujiang, East China's Jiangxi province, three 10-year-old primary school girls jumped from the second floor of a building. They survived and are being treated in hospital. The trio said they chose to jump because it meant they would not have to do homework anymore.
The grandmother of one of the girls said she always has a lot of homework. All three had failed to hand in homework that day and were afraid of getting punished by their teachers, she said.
These shocking tales have led many netizens to blame the intense competition among modern society. Others, however, say China's education system is to blame, as it often heaps pressure on minds too young to handle it.
As the system is not likely to change quickly, experts say Chinese students need more psychological help.
Yang Jing, a psychotherapist based at Beijing Normal University, said many parents fail to detect problems and lack effective emotional communication with their children.
"Adolescents are rebellious. When they cannot communicate well with parents, they tend to resort to extreme behavior," she said.
Yan Zhengwei, chief therapist at Wales Psychological Clinic in Shanghai, said that a lack of education about death and related issues is also a factor.
"Constrained by the traditional taboo, Chinese people resent talking about death, so education about it is rarely seen in schools, which is actually very important for a person's growth," he said. "It will help students have a deeper insight into the meaning of life.
"With the understanding of life and death, young people may not take their lives so casually," he added.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the country has "one of the highest rates of suicide in the world". In fact, suicide is the biggest cause of death among Chinese aged 15 to 34.
Some schools in China are attempting to address the issue and give free psychological counseling. Yet, experts say few of these services can ease the problem.
"Some children have problems with teachers or classmates. They fear that speaking to the school consultant will drag bring them bigger troubles," said psychotherapist Yang.
Parents should tell children that death is not the only solution, she added.
Cheng Shuying and Jin Huiyu contributed to this story.