We can stop suicides
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-04 08:30

Last month's Chengdu bus fire that killed 27 people and injured 74 was the result of arson. And the perpetrator was a desperate misanthrope who wanted to "die differently".

Suicide is tragic, more so when it inflicts harm on others.

The incident in the Sichuan provincial capital turned one man's warped idea of life devastating for 101 families. That's suicide plus murder.

The innocent passengers of that crowded bus can be blamed for just one thing and one thing only: They were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

It wasn't their destiny. The incident was by no means inevitable had someone intervened after a phone call the arsonist made to his daughter, saying he would die the next day, or if someone had stopped him from carrying a lethal bucket of gasoline aboard the bus.

We can stop suicides

There's no point regretting. We had a chance to avert the disaster, but missed it. Harm's already been inflicted. The loss of lives is irrepairable.

The local authorities have installed stricter safety standards to dispel subsequent fears among bus commuters.

The authorities' neglect had a role to play in the tragedy. Dangerous substances like gasoline are forbidden in public places throughout China, including on buses. But no one stopped the crazy man from casually stepping into that bus holding death's hand.

It would be a great pity if this tragedy fails to open our eyes to the significance of suicide/crisis intervention.

As is true in most suicide cases, there were loud and clear signals. The man had reportedly threatened to kill himself on multiple occasions after his family turned down his requests for money. And he made it even clearer on the night of June 4 with that phone call to his daughter.

Maybe, he was like the boy who cried wolf one too many times. Besides, he was a compulsive gambler and visited prostitutes, whose word doesn't hold much water.

Like in most cases, his suicide, too, was preventable. Not only his family, but our entire society should learn a lesson. Every year, about 280,000 people in this country commit suicide.

But suicide/crisis intervention mechanism is available only in a negligible number of cities.

As depression grows into an increasingly prominent social phenomenon, suicide intervention has to be incorporated in the country's public health programs.

The State Council reportedly received a national suicide prevention plan years ago. Whether or not the plan itself was good enough, the issue is worth a serious look.

(China Daily 07/04/2009 page4)