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Suicides reveal rural seniors' desperation

Updated: 2016-09-08 06:59
By Tang Yue (China Daily)

 Suicides reveal rural seniors' desperation

Xu Kun (second from left) plays a game with elderly residents at the Beijing office of "Love Elderly Hotline" that she founded a decade ago to provide psychological counseling service to seniors. Zou Hong/China Daily

Many take their own lives so as not to be a burden on their children, according to one researcher, as Tang Yue reports

Editor's note: This is the last in a recent series of reports by China Daily looking at the lives of elderly people, the problems they face and ongoing efforts to improve their standards of living. Also, the story aims to raise awareness about suicide prevention among seniors as Sept 10 is the annual World Suicide Prevention Day.

Fang Fengying lost her only child in 2002, when her 19-year-old daughter fell to her death from a four-meter high ledge in the suburbs of Beijing.

Less than a decade later, in 2011, Fang's husband died of esophageal cancer. "It was even more difficult than losing my daughter because I was left totally alone in the world," the 63-year-old recalled.

"I was fully prepared. I was ready to jump to my death at any time."

Fang began to see things that weren't there. Once, in a confused state, she mistook a woman on the street for her daughter and tried to convince the stranger to come home with her.

She was depressed, but fortunately two of her friends noticed her behavior and took her to a hospital for treatment.

Though still on medication, Fang said she has found a new partner and can enjoy life again now. But not everyone is so lucky.

According to the World Health Organization, China's suicide rate dropped from 19.4 per 100,000 in 2000 to 7.8 per 100,000 in 2012, when the global average was 11.4 suicides per 100,000. Yet figures from the China Public Health Statistical Yearbook suggest that suicide rates are much higher among the older generation, especially in the countryside.

According to the data, in 2014, the suicide rate among 55 to 59-year-olds living in urban areas was 5.53 per 100,000, rising to 41.2 per 100,000 for those age 85 and older. In rural areas, meanwhile, the rates for the two age groups were 11.2 per 100,000 and 70.3 per 100,000, respectively.

However, high suicide rates among the elderly are not unique to China, according to the WHO report.

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