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Offering hope to those who feel despair

Teenagers suffering from depression given opportunity and support through an innovative program of care, Wang Qian reports.

By Wang Qian | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-16 06:24
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Residents and staff from Lyuting Home enjoy the lakeside in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The maladies or symptoms strike without warning. Possibly, at first, the problem manifests itself in an inability to sleep well. Then the dietary problems start. Feelings of inadequacy are common. Nothing seems interesting. Life's supposed vibrancy — the laughter, the humor, the challenges — seems like a cruel joke. A sudden emotional breakdown strikes, and the person may wake up crying, or play endlessly with a smartphone.

These are some of the symptoms of teenage depression, and most adolescents who have lived at Lyuting Home in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, are familiar with these symptoms, which have caused many of them to drop out of school.

"Depression is a prevalent dilemma that students increasingly face across the country. We hope to turn Lyuting into a cozy, cave-like home, for those whose body and soul are in distress, to help them recover and return to normal life," Sheng Menglu, founder of the organization, says.

"Our basic rule is simple: No violence, no judgment, and respect for diversity," the 31-year-old woman says, adding that under the rules, everyone's feelings, behavior and ideas are welcomed, and there are no taboo subjects.

A recent survey showed that more than 70 percent of the adolescents who lived in Lyuting for more than a month responded that their temporary residence had empowered them to feel connected to their community and provided a sense of security.

Since its establishment in October 2021, the four-story home has served about 80 teenagers and their families through its companion program. Under the program, companion workers, usually in their 20s or 30s with a background in psychology, develop a healthy bond with the adolescents, providing care and love, dealing with their emotional dilemmas and helping them identify and express their feelings.

"Over the past two years, some organizations have consulted us about our service model and we hope it can be expanded, leveraging greater social forces to help more people in need," Sheng says.

Depression and anxiety disorders trouble nearly 30 million adolescents across the country, according to the 2022 blue book on national depression released by People's Daily. Among them, 2 million are estimated to have dropped out of school due to psychological distress.

"After they receive therapy in a hospital or special school, most of these teenagers are trapped at home, which may not provide a good environment for recovery," she says.

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