Death of Chinese actor puts depression in spotlight

Case of popular TV, film actor Qiao sparks call for greater understanding

The death of a popular actor and singer, rooted in depression, has stirred public attention and drawn calls from medical experts for better understanding of the condition.

Qiao Renliang, 28, was found dead at an apartment in Shanghai on Friday, the police said online, ruling out the possibility of foul play. The case is under investigation, the statement said.

Warner Music China, with which Qiao had signed a contract, released a statement saying Qiao was depressed last year and suffered from insomnia for several years. He tried medication in recent months and saw some improvement, Warner said.

Qiao was an upbeat personality, and many of his colleagues were not aware that he suffered from depression, according to media reports.

He had 10.8 million followers on his social media account, which noted that he had won a national singing competition organised by a local TV station in 2005 and had acted in several popular TV series.

According to the World Health Organisation, between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression or anxiety worldwide increased by nearly 50 per cent to 615 million, which means that close to 10 per cent of the world's population is affected.

Depression is a mental disorder characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, overall tiredness and poor concentration; and it may lead to suicide, the WHO said.

Yang Lei, a psychiatrist at Peking University Sixth Hospital, said depression often occurs in families. It also affects people suffering from serious disabilities, such as those caused by stroke.

"Those who show symptoms of depression should see a doctor quickly," he said, adding that people prone to depression can take preventive medication or seek psychological counseling.

"Depression is an experience of low spirit. It's not common. Most people have no such experience," he said. "It is different from more common experiences such as tiredness or insomnia."

To reduce depression, the whole society, not just doctors, should work to eliminate its causes, Yang said. Efforts should include poverty relief, helping the disabled and reducing pressure.

"Publicity is also important to give the public more knowledge," he said.

There are about 17 million people with mental disorders in China, according to a report by the China Sleep Research Society.

Helplines:

Samaritans Of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association For Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute Of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222

Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

Tinkle Friend (For Primary School-Aged Children): 1800-274-4788