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    Prevention project offers an outlet

2004-11-01 06:01

Xu Rong, a project officer with the Cultural Development Centre for Rural Women, recalled bitter memories when she talked about starting the suicide prevention project she runs in Hebei, since "everybody thought suicide was a private issue."

Now running in Zhending, Haixing and Qinglong counties, the project emphasizes the building of stronger rural communities.

"We select two villages in each county as experimental bases, where organizations to promote women's health are established," Xu said.

She said each village has chosen a female leader, who is both zealous and capable.

The project is having an impact.

In Donghao, a women's yangge (a popular rural folk dance in northern China) club is thriving, attracting a large number of members.

After becoming a member of the club, Zhang Xiaoyun, as well as a number of her mahjong partners, quit the gambling habit.

In May, 40 villagers from the three counties, including women who have attempted to commit suicide, relatives of suicide victims and local officials were invited by CDCRW to Beijing for a week of lectures.

All but one of the 26 women who had attempted suicide had given up the idea after taking part in the lectures.

"It is nice to have someone organizing activities for these women," said Li Changbao, a 75-year-old man in Donghao Village, though he still held that suicide is a private matter.

"We never talk about suicide in villages. Instead, we offer assistance on issues related to women's health and organize activities," said Xu Fengqin from the Qinglong Women's Health Promotion Association.

In the meantime, the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Centre is trying a more academic approach.

As part of "Super-Miss," the World Health Organization's global campaign to prevent suicide, the centre started a two-year project in Yuncheng, an agronomical county in East China's Shandong Province.

Similar to Qinglong, Yuncheng deals with 15 to 25 suicidal cases within a month, according to Xu Dong, the project manager.

The centre has selected 120 such cases for a medical follow-up and a detailed assessment since last year.

"We organize two of the local psychiatrists to make irregular visits to about half of them, to help them regain their confidence and therefore lower the risk of suicide," he said.

From different perspectives, the two organizations are both seeking a feasible mode to prevent and control rural suicide.

As Xu Fengqin, who vows to dedicate herself to suicide prevention, points out: "Behind every single life is a whole family. To save one is to save all."

(China Daily 11/01/2004 page5)


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