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Suicide rate rings alarm for the young
( 2003-11-20 00:24) (China Daily)

Qin Zhijiang, a Chinese mother whose 14-year-old son died from suicide a year ago, sobbed in agony Wednesday over losing her beloved.

Her grief, stark and real, moved all the participants of a suicide prevention workshop in Beijing.

"It is hard for me to recover from the great grief... such grief that has pushed me to decide to devote myself to suicide prevention in case such tragedy reoccur in other families,'' she said.

In China, Qin is not the only suffering from such tragedy. Every year, an average of 18 people out of 100,000 take their own lives. Internationally, around 15 people out of 100,000 commit suicide, according to World Report on Violence and Health released in 2002.

In fact,suicide has turned into one of the three leading causes of deaths among people 15 to 34 years of age throughout the world.

In China,of the 300,000 people who commit suicide annually , more than 80 per cent are rural-based farm workers or family members, most of whom killed themselves using deadly pesticides, Liu Denggao, a vice-director at the Ministry of Agriculture said at a Workshop on a National Suicide Prevention Plan for China.

What's more, the suicide death rate for women has seen a 25 per cent higher increase than that for Chinese men.

In contrast, in western countries, the number of women taking their own lives account for only one half to one third the number of men.

Terribly traumatic experiences, such as unfortunate marriages, domestic conflicts and economic woes are to be blamed for many of the rural women's suicides, especially for younger women, said Wu Xuehua, a representative from the All China's Women Federation.

She also said her federation is going all out to help those women in rural and remote areas to improve their living skills and establish self-esteem.

Other measures include setting up telephone hotlines and intervention shelters, both of which provide women with access to psychological professionals to discuss conflicts and issues. Counselors can provide guidance and occupational training when needed, Wu said.

"A pilot monitoring system is also under way,'' said Wu. "It mainly functions to keep close track of those at risk of suicide.''

On top of that, the Ministry of Culture has also pledged to help relieve the current suicide rate by restricting the access to pesticides.

As a major agricultural country, China produces 450,000 to 480,000 tons of pesticides every year and consumes up to 250,000 tons in agriculture, ranking second in the world.

Liu said his ministry has adopted a series of measures, such as restricting production of the most poisonous insecticides, changing the colour and smell of poisons,packaging chemicals in small amounts, and educating the public about appropriate uses and storage of pesticides.

All the pesticides are held and administrated by local collectives so that agricultural workers can get access to them when they are really needed, Liu said.

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