China’s development has seen a dramatic rise in quality of life for many of its people as many people are well aware. But despite this improvement in quality of life, modern China also has some very high suicide rates. According to 2010 figures supplied by the WHO, China is ranked 9th in the world in suicide rates behind Latvia and ahead of Slovenia.
What accounts for this high rate and what are some things the government or others do to reduce this trend?
The pattern for Chinese suicides is odd. Most of the people committing suicide are women. China has one of the highest suicide rates in the world for women. In most countries, men far out commit suicide than women (by a factor of 4-5 to 1). This is not because men are more likely to suffer mental problems or more likely to attempt suicide but because men tend to be far more effective at committing suicide (they use more violent methods such as guns or jumping off buildings, etc while women tend to use drug overdose which has a much higher survival rate). I wonder if Chinese women tend to use different methods of attempting suicide than their western counterparts or whether the high suicide rate is matched by a proportionately higher attempted suicide rate.
If it were not for the high rates of Chinese women committing suicide, China would have a very low suicide rate as Chinese men have some of the lowest suicide rates in the world. I think the reason why so many Chinese women commit suicide is because when they get old or sick, many think of themselves as a burden on their families. Many Chinese women also may feel helpless because in much of China, there are few resources to help abused, neglected and poorly educated women.
In building a socialist state with “Chinese characteristics” one thing that China ought to do is find ways to support older women and set up mental help institutions that are free of charge and help educate women especially in the country side of social benefits available to them.
[Disclaimer] Many ignorant people in the west may look at these figures and think, “ahah! I knew it. Chinese society is sexist and that is why there are so many female suicides!” But the statistics in the US of Asian (and especially Chinese) women show that Asian women in the US has some of the highest suicide rates of any group and moreover, the longer they stay in the US, the higher their rates of suicide, attempted suicide, thinking about suicide and mental health problems. It’s way too simplistic to put all the blame on Chinese culture. We can equally look at these statistics and apply the same kind of “logic” and say that it’s because US culture is so sexist and perhaps racist that accounts for the increase in suicide rates the longer they stay in the US.