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Six Chinese Officials Kill Themselves in a Month, Mental Illness Cited
Update time: 2018/06/04
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Six government and Party officials in China committed suicide by jumping off tall buildings or cutting wrist within a month. Only one of them survived.

Cheng Wandong, a county-level Party official in East China's Jiangsu Province, killed himself during a training session in the neighboring Zhejiang Province last week, news site thepaper.cn reported Sunday.

A day earlier, Yin Jinbao, Party chief of a major State-owned bank in Tianjin, cut his wrist at office. Since May 10, another four officials in Beijing and East China's Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces have jumped off tall buildings, local media reported.

The number of suicides is not surprising to Zhao Guoqiu, chief psychologist at Zhejiang's Public Security Department and consultant to the 
Ministry of Public Security.

Of the 15 patients Zhao receives every week, half are civil servants and a majority of them suffer from depression and anxiety, Zhao told the Global Times.

Around 25 percent of China's civil servants suffer from insomnia, said Zhao, who has been studying psychological issues among the officials for over 30 years.

From 2009 to 2017, around 283 officials in China committed suicide, according to research by the Institute of Psychology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The data has been sourced from open information and media reports while the actual number could be much higher as some cases may not have been made public, research director Zhu Zhuohong said. 

The number of suicide cases are around 21 from 2009 to 2013, peaked to 59 in 2014 and dropped in the later years, Zhu told the Global Times. In 2017, around 40 suicide cases of officials have come to light, he said.

Work pressure with strict oversight and tight deadlines is the major cause. Career setbacks contribute to the pressure, and less time left for marriage and family, adds to it. Marital and parental issues get neglected because of a skewed work-life balance, said Zhu.

Among 204 suicide cases of civil servants studied by Zhu's team since 2009, 40 percent were committed at the workplace and 30 percent at home. The most popular way is jumping off a building or bridge, which accounts for nearly 57 percent, followed by hanging and slashing wrists.

When asked whether the suicides are linked to China's enhanced anti-corruption drive, Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University, said there's no evidence to support the claim, while the suicides did send a warning that the psychological state of the officials must be monitored.

Stigma attached

Psychologists say they are usually the last choice for civil servants suffering from mental illness due to the stigma attached to the condition and the fear of being affected on promotion. A local official first turned to a feng shui master after feeling uneasy, said Zhu.

However, when the prescription of changing the furniture layout at home did not work and visits to other feng shui experts did not yield results, the official went to hospital for treatment.

Compared to people in other occupations, government and Party officials have fewer outlets of releasing stress as hanging out with friends and other sources of entertainment could easily be associated with corrupt behavior and are closely watched by the public, said Zhao.

The psychological condition of civil servants came under public spotlight around 2009 when 13 officials committed suicide.

In 2011, CPC's discipline watchdog and organization department jointly issued a notice calling for more attention to the issue. Lectures and training in Party schools and government departments were held to discuss the problem.

Psychological issues are seldom included in training sessions of China's grass-roots government as local officials do not know where to start, or fear it may bring unwanted attention because of the stigma attached to mental illness in China's political circles, said Zhu.

Party and government officials' psychological condition must be tested regularly, and the process "should not be a show," Zhu stressed.

"Psychological treatment should be undertaken by credible third parties like academic institutions. The treatment must ensure confidentiality and medical records should be kept from employers," he added. (Global Times)


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