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Suicide tops college death list

SHANGHAI'S universities will add psychological health courses to their curricula this year after a report showed that suicide was the top cause of death among college students in 2008.

Nineteen local college students took their own lives last year, beating out acute diseases, traffic accidents and fires as the chief killer of these young people, according to the Shanghai Education Commission.

The ranking, published yesterday, was the first such listing compiled by the commission.

Though the lack of previous statistics makes comparisons to earlier periods difficult, officials said they believed the death cause ranking was similar to earlier years.

"The report will be released on an annual basis and is expected to alert the public and raise everyone's safety awareness," said Mo Fuchun, vice director and spokesman for the commission.

The city reported 63 "safety incidents" among its 598,400 registered college students last year, including 55 deaths and 18 injuries.

In addition to last year's 19 deaths, four students survived suicide attempts.

More than half the suicide victims were found to be suffering from depression caused by relationship problems or study pressure.

High expectations

Last December, for instance, a senior student jumped from the fifth floor of a classroom building in Songjiang university town after leaving an exam site. Classmates said the student ended his life after he was caught cheating on the test.

Even with the substantial number of deaths, Zhang Haiyan, vice director of the city's university psychological counseling association, said the percentage of college students committing suicide was relatively low compared with the level in the general society.

But authorities said it does reflect influences that might be mitigated through better awareness of the causes of suicide.

"Parents nowadays usually put high expectations on their single children even as they dote on them. But children who grown up under highly indulgent parents tend to be fragile in face of frustrations such as poor exam performance," said Zhang, who is also a professor at the East China University of Politics and Law.

To increase intervention, the commission plans to equip colleges and universities with at least one certified psychological counselor for every 3,000 students within three years, or about 200 in total. There are now only 80 such counselors, though another 241 are currently taking training course.

Psychological education courses taught by certified professionals will also be provided either on a compulsory or elective basis among all the city's 65 colleges and universities by this year's end, said Zhao Yang, a commission official who oversees students' psychological health.


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