China has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, particularly among rural women, an expert on suicide prevention said Monday.
Yang Fude, vice-president of Beijing Hui Long Guan Hospital, said China is the only country where suicides among women outnumber men.
"It is also one of the few countries where rural suicides outnumber urban suicides," he said on World Suicide Prevention Day.
Recent statistics show more than 287,000 people end their own lives every year on the Chinese mainland.
Stress and depression cause 70 to 80 percent of suicides in urban areas, where many of those afflicted jump off buildings, according to data released by the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center.
Half of the suicides on the mainland are of women in rural areas, who commonly drink pesticide to end their lives. They may do so because of family disputes, low-educational levels and restricted social communication.
More than 58 percent of suicides by females and 27 percent of attempts in rural areas used pesticides.
Though suicide ranks fifth after cerebrovascular diseases (such as a stroke), bronchitis, chronic emphysema, liver cancer and pneumonia, it is the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 34.
A two-year survey by researchers at Peking University found over 20 percent of 140,000 high-school students interviewed said they had considered committing suicide. And 6.5 percent of the students surveyed said they had made plans to kill themselves.
"Compared with Western countries, suicide in China is an escape from immediate problems and not related to mental issues as much," Yang said.
"Here suicides are more often spur of the moment."
Yang called for more attention to be paid to potential suicides of young women in rural areas and senior citizens in urban areas.
"As the nation ages, more elderly people are left at home with psychological and physical problems," Yang said.
Zhan Chunyun, dean of the Guangzhou-based Kangning Psychology Hotline, suggested counseling and prevention services should be more accessible.
"The number of suicides can be drastically reduced if more medication, hotline and counseling facilities are available, particularly in the countryside," Zhan said.
Currently, the country has just 19 professional suicide intervention institutes registered nationwide. These provide depression hot lines staffed by nurses, depression-awareness campaigns and psychiatrists in emergency rooms.
The central government has gradually realized suicide is becoming a public health issue that happens to all groups of people.
Research has been launched to investigate the reasons for young people committing suicide.