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The voices of reason

By Wang Qian | China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-09 08:19
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Su Wei, head of the 12355 Beijing service program, during a livestreaming course that helps students enhance positive attitudes.[Photo provided to China Daily]

"She made the call while walking along a lake, which for me, was a dangerous sign. The trigger for her breakdown was a small dispute with her father. One of her classmates was going to study abroad and she wanted to make a goodbye gift, but her father said it was a waste of time," Ma says, adding that she suggested writing a letter as a way to build a communication bridge between the daughter and father.

That girl is not alone. According to the report on national mental health development in China (2019-20), published by the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in March last year, the detected rate of depression among Chinese adolescents in 2020 was 24.6 percent, including 17.2 percent with mild depression and 7.4 percent classed as severe.

The report said factors, including pressure imposed by families, inappropriate parenting styles and influences from the surrounding environment, could lead to depression among juveniles.

According to a study published in British medical journal Translational Psychiatry in March last year, depression and anxiety was common among adolescents in China during the initial COVID-19 outbreak and their prevalence increased significantly six weeks later, even though the outbreak was relatively under control.

Factors such as the impact of financial issues on parental behaviors, potential intensification of social isolation and loneliness, and cumulative pressure of long-term online learning due to COVID-19 resurgence can increase the risk of mental health problems among adolescents. Therefore, the researchers hypothesized that the prevalence of depression and anxiety would further increase among Chinese adolescents over time.

Ma echoes this, noting that it is a challenging time, and she has been receiving an increasing number of calls from students feeling a loss of control after their TOEFL or GRE exams have been postponed or even canceled.

For Su, he knows how difficult it is for some students, especially the ones who are taking the national college entrance exam this year. His son is taking the exam this month.

To help these students reduce academic pressure to get good scores in the exam, counselors at Beijing 12355 have launched online sessions to help students, parents and schools navigate this tough time. Some sessions have been viewed more than 100,000 times.

"The hotline is just a small part of providing support. We need all parties, including communities, the government and individuals, to get involved in making mental health care accessible," Su says.

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