In the end it was easier for Hong Qiankun to take his own life than to
continue bearing the burden of modern life.
He had spent a year looking for a job by the time he received his master's
degree in chemical science from Tsinghua University last July.
Though he eventually found a post at a training school in Quanzhou, Fujian
Province, a small city on China's southeastern coast, the conditions were far
from ideal. He lived in a crowded dormitory, received a meager wage and had
trouble understanding the accents of his colleagues and students.
Four months later he settled on what must have seemed a cure-all solution to
his frustrations: One night he jumped out of his dormitory window. In a note to
his parents he wrote, "Your son is good. I cannot find a jobI don't want to
burden the family any more."
Hong's case is far from unique. Recent statistics from the Chinese
Association of Mental Health show that suicide has become the No 1 killer of
Chinese people between the ages of 15 and 34.
Suicide accounted for 26.04 percent of the deaths in this age group last
year, according to statistics. The number of suicides for each year was not
In 2003, the last year for which statistics are available, the Ministry of
Health, recorded more than 250,000 suicides and two million attempts. In the
same year, 31,484 people committed suicide in the United States, according to
figures from the American Association of Suicidology.
Many of the people who killed themselves were teenagers. A two-year survey by
researchers at Peking University that ended last May, found that 20.4 percent of
the more than 140,000 high school students interviewed said they had considered
committing suicide at some point.
And 6.5 percent of the students surveyed said they had made concrete plans to
The survey, by researchers at the university's Children and Teenagers' Health
Research Institute, involved 69,091 teenage boys and 72,489 girls, with an
average age of 16.3. It covered 13 provinces and municipalities, including both
big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and developing areas like the Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region.
The ratios of all three steps toward committing suicide thinking about it,
making a plan and taking action have all seen a sharp rise since 2002, said the
In a 2002 survey, 4,006 students at 11 high schools in Beijing were
interviewed, and 17.4 percent of them said they had thought about committing
suicide, 3 percent less than in 2006, while 4.9 percent said they had planned to
Many of the people queried had put their plans into action. Three percent of
the boys included in the recent survey had tried unsuccessfully to kill
themselves at least once. The number for girls was even higher.
In general, teenage girls resort to suicide more easily than boys do,
according to the recent survey. Of the girls surveyed, 23.7 percent said they
had thought about killing themselves. The figure was only 17 percent for boys.
Besides, 7.4 percent of the girls said they had drafted suicide plans, while 5.7
percent of the boys said they had done so.
Meanwhile, boys and girls who were in their second and third years of their
three-year junior high school education which follows primary school said they
thought more about suicide than teenagers in other grades, according to the
As for the reasons leading to suicide plans, having a mood was one cause.
About half of the boys and 57 percent of the girls surveyed said that they had
suffered from loneliness during the last 12 months. This feeling of loneliness
seems to increase with age.
Thirty-seven percent of the boys and 40 percent of the girls said they often
or always had problems sleeping in the last 12 months. Moreover, 17 percent of
the teenagers said they had to stop their daily activities for two weeks or
longer because they felt too depressed or even desperate during the 12 months.
Researchers found that the pressure on individuals in a transitional society,
frustrations in love, a cultural unwillingness to discuss feelings and the lack
of channels for exploring one's identity were some of the leading causes of
The researchers asked students who were in their second year at junior high
school to draw self-portraits of themselves in an ideal world. The pictures
The teenagers did not want their parents and teachers watching over them all
day. They did not want uniform clothes and hairstyles. They desperately yearned
(China Daily 03/27/2007 page4)