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Hotline warns of 'smiling depression'

Updated: 2014-09-11 04:22
(China Daily)

China's first suicide intervention hotline alerted the public to "smiling depression" on Wednesday, which was World Suicide Prevention Day. The condition is hard to detect and can lead to suicide.

To date, the Beijing Psychological Assistance Hotline, set up in 2002 and run by Huilongguan Hospital, has received more than 210,000 calls, including more than 7,000 from people attempting suicide.

"But not everyone is lucky enough to escape from the hand of death," said Wang Cuiling, head of the hotline, citing a case typical of the so-called "smiling depression".

Ming (not his real name) was a caller who showed a tendency toward depression but seemingly responded well to the helpful advice provided by the trained operators.

However, three month later, a friend of Ming called the hotline and said he had committed suicide.

Ming's friend said he appeared to be the happiest person in the world.

Wang warned that those who smile all the time in front of others might be hiding their negative emotions.

"Such cases could be very difficult to detect by their family or friends. They need to see mental health worker early," she said.

The help line operates 24/7. Operators work two shifts, and each one answers seven calls per day on average. They occupy small booths equipped with computers.

Operators evaluate the mental health of callers in accordance with four steps and give appropriate advice.

The first step identifies the purpose of the call and tries to lift the mood of pessimism.

The second step evaluates the suicidal tendency by means of a questionnaire.

The third step offers solutions and advice.

The final step is the conclusion. "The conclusion part may seem not as useful as the other procedures, but it is a vital step," Wang said.

"We return calls to those people who are at high risk of suicide, in a bid to re-assess their risk and deliver interventions again."

Wang said the recovery rate of depression is about 70 percent, but the concern is that people tend to overlook these types of illnesses because their symptoms are not as obvious as with physical illnesses.

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