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Student Suicides Increase, Counselors Needed

A junior student at Beijing Institute of Technology committed suicide by jumping off a campus building on June 21 -- the 14th student in the capital to kill themselves in the first half of this year, compared to 19 in the whole of 2004.

Suicide now ranks as the fifth most common cause of death in China and top for people aged 15 to 34, according to the China Psychological Health Association in Nanjing.

Fan Fumin, psychology professor at Tsinghua University, said pressures from academic competition, depression, difficulties adjusting to a college environment and relationship problems are the main causes behind student suicide.

It is estimated that 1 in every 10,000 Chinese college students has attempted suicide at least once.

Most students at top universities who have too high expectations can easily feel frustrated when they have difficulties studying, and "usually campus love is one's first love. Some sensitive students, mostly girls, suffer a lot if a relationship ends,"said Fan.

Nanjing Psychological Risk Rescue and Suicide Prevention Center said student suicides caused by relationship problems and study pressures were 44.2 and 29.8 percent respectively.

Conditions like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can develop unrecognized during childhood, can also be exacerbated into more serious mental health problems, said Fan, who added: "There is no testing for such conditions before entering university."

Though suicide attempts are hard to predict, they can be prevented with professional counseling and medication, according to Professor Zhai Shutao of Nanjing Neurological Hospital.

However, there are no more than a hundred full-time psychological consultants in Beijing's universities. In order for there to be one psychologist for every 5,000 students, at least a hundred more are needed.

"Universities and colleges need to establish a mechanism and provide a favorable environment to retain talented counselors and attract more young people to a career in it," said Lin Yonghe, vice director of the Psychology Consultation Commission for College Students.

(China.org.cn by Li Shen, July 21, 2005)

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