Girl's post-death suicide note on blog stirs discussion

A girl's suicide note - which was automatically posted on the Internet 12 hours after her death - has stirred heated discussion.

"I have depression, so I want to die. There's no important reason, and you shouldn't care about my leaving this world. Bye bye," read the message that appeared on Sina Weibo on Sunday.

The girl, surnamed Ma, had hanged herself in her dorm on Saturday night, police confirmed.

Unaware that she was already dead, netizens, Sina Weibo and police immediately tried to track down and help the girl.

By Tuesday afternoon more than 54,000 netizens had left messages on her micro blog, and local people were urged to find the girl.

Mao Taotao, a public relation officer for Sina Weibo, said the company called local police as soon as the post was found.

"We always monitor micro blogs showing users' suicide tendencies in an attempt to save their lives," said Mao.

But local police confirmed on Monday that Ma, a senior student from Jinling Institute of Technology in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, had hanged herself in her dorm on Saturday night.

She had set the suicide note to be posted automatically about 12 hours after her death.

Ma's death astonished her friends and teachers.

"Why not talk to me? You know that my cell phone is on 24 hours a day for you," said a friend named "Taoxiaozhong" on the Internet.

A teacher surnamed Zhang said that the girl, though a little shy, always got along well with people around her and did well in school.

"Sometimes she even made jokes with her classmates, and nobody noticed that she had depression," Zhang said.

After the incident, the institute arranged for psychological counseling for friends and teachers.

Netizens also expressed different opinions about Ma's death.

One of her micro blog followers, whose online name is "Li Xiaohua", said that the public should care more about depression.

"I can read between the lines that she needed other people's attention."

"If anyone had taken the girl's messages seriously and offered help when she expressed suicidal intentions, maybe she would still be alive," said Zhang Chun, director of Nanjing's Psychological Crisis Intervention Center. "Judging from the girl's messages on her micro blog, she just had mild depression."

Among Ma's 1,896 messages, many revealed her thoughts about committing suicide.

"I delete my web history every four hours, in case my mom notices it after my death," said the girl last month.

"I cry every time when I call my mom, and I'm not strong at all," Ma said the day she committed suicide.

However, none of these messages drew the attention of people around her.

"People with severe depression account for 2 per cent of China's population," said Yao Zhijian, a psychiatrist from Nanjing Brain Hospital.

"For people with severe depression, the lifetime risk of suicide may be as high as 13 per cent, and women have depression at nearly two times the rate of men."

He added that in China only 10 per cent of patients diagnosed with depression have received clinical treatment.

Tian Chenghua, a mental health expert from Peking University's Institute of Mental Health, said that ignorance and misconceptions about depression still exist among the public.

"Many Chinese people used to consider depression as lunacy," said Tian. "With more publicity about it, fewer people now discriminate against it. But compared with many other countries, people's knowledge about depression is limited and is far from enough."

"The medicine for depression is only available by prescription in China, which prevents many who are affected by the disease from seeking treatment," Tian said.

Depression has become one of the most frequent mental health problems in people who commit suicide, said Zhang, calling for improving detection and urgent treatment to reduce suicide risks.

"To prevent suicide, recognition of the warning signs is important," said Zhang. "Signs suggesting that someone may be contemplating a suicide attempt include sudden change of personality, expression of hopelessness and self-criticism."

According to her, Nanjing's mental health hotline received 2,700 calls in 2011, up 10 per cent from 2010.

Depression will become the second-largest contributor to the global burden of disease after coronary heart disease by 2020, according to estimates by the World Health Organization.

Cao Yin contributed to this story.

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