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April 21, 2010

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Makeup sales aid mental health

UNIVERSITY students from low-income families are under a lot of stress because of family expectations in a highly competitive society, and experts say their emotional and mental health issues need attention.

Among the common problems are anxiety, depression, guilt, lack of confidence, problems with interpersonal relations and confusion about direction and career.

L'Oreal China has heeded the call and held a fund-raising event at Fudan University last week to benefit mental health programs for these students. The L'Oreal China on-campus charity sales offered cosmetics and skincare products at reduced prices.

The Fudan event was part of an annual nationwide charity campaign for students' mental health, which has covered 22 universities in 14 cities. Since it was launched in 2003, it has helped around 1,700 poor students from western China. This year it covers eight schools.

"Quite a few poor university students hope to change their fate by education. When at times they experience failure, they tend to be desperate and gloomy," says Chen Yanyun, deputy secretary-general of the China Youth Development Foundation.

Speaking at the kick-off event in Beijing last Wednesday, he called for more efforts in mental health education and counseling to help university students from poor families.

"We suggest universities keep mental health files for these students in order to know in time about their psychological issues and needs, to carry out effective support and counseling and assist them in emerging from difficult periods," he said.

Zhang Qiwen, a senior student at Fudan, is enthusiastic about helping his less-fortunate peers.

"They have to think about their own advancement and their families' economic situation at the same time," he says. "This puts them under a lot of pressure in daily life.

"Sometimes they are a little discontented about society and have a one-sided view because of their own problems," he says.

At the L'Oreal China on-campus charity sales in Fudan, Zhang worked as a salesman, introducing products to female students.

"All the products are sold at a discount," he says. "When we buy and donate our money, we not only get beauty, but satisfaction from helping others."

Some of the sales staff were students from low-income families, who received a one-day training in advance and built their social skills and confidence.

This year the national campaign aims to raise 1 million yuan (US$146,475) at eight universities and support more than 330 students.

An additional 200,000 yuan is expected to be raised to establish the L'Oreal Fund for the Mental Health and Education of Poor Students. It will fund counseling and medical services and help improve mental health education.

"This is a significant effort involving grants-in-aid, development and mental health education," says Chen of the Youth Foundation.

"In addition to subsidies, more mental care should be given to students in need."


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