China / Government

Spotlight on officials suffering from depression

( Updated: 2015-05-12 18:04

Spotlight on officials suffering from depression

There has been an apparent increase in the number of officials who visited doctors for depression over the past three years, and many of them are reluctant to see a doctor out of fear of ruining their political career, and some pay visits to the doctor on private records instead of medical insurance in order to keep their illness private, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Tuesday.

The issue of officials suffering from depression has hit the public spotlight as three officials committed suicide in the first week of May.

Geng Zunfang, head of the foreign affairs office in the Provincial Education Department in Anhui province, jumped off a building to her death on May 4. It was the third case that had been reported of Chinese officials committing suicide in the first week of May.

Words such as "depression", "insomnia", and "low spirit" have appeared in the press regarding these cases.

Li Heng, a psychologist at Peking University Sixth Hospital, observed, "There has been an increasing number for the civil servants suffering from depression going to the hospital."

The exact number of officials with depression is unknown and difficult to find out apart from news reports about those who resort to suicide, according to Li.

From his analysis, the patients with depression usually spent several months or longer to decide whether or not to go for therapy and treatment, leading to more severe conditions when they do seek treatment.

Officials have even more concerns holding them back from seeking treatment. Not only do they worry their political career will be compromised after others know about their condition, but also have trouble trusting hospitals to keep their medical information confidential.

In 2012, a psychological consulting center serving employees working for the Central government agencies conducted a research on the relationship between work pressure and psychological health. The result showed over 60 percent of people feel above average pressure from work.

In the same year, a hotline was set up by the center in order to help those facing psychological problems. According to Beijing Youth Daily, all the hotline calls are made by officials' families rather than officials with depression themselves.

The issue of officials committing suicide has garnered attention from the highest level of authority in China. Early this year, the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) issued a notice to collect data on CPC members who killed themselves after the 18th National Congress of the Party in Nov 2012. The notice covered CPC and government organs, universities and colleges and State-owned enterprises from various regions in China.

Media reports show that more than 130 officials died abnormally since 2000, and a majority of them committed suicide, according to Beijing Youth Daily.

The abnormal deaths refer to those caused by suicide, murder, work-related injuries, road accidents, medical accidents, other accidents like fire, and execution, according to the notice.

Nie Huihua, professor at the school of economics in Renmin University of China, believes there's a strong connection between the increasing number of suicidal officials and the tightening of anti-graft policies and inspections.

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