As well as marking Teacher’s Day in China, today is also World Suicide Prevention Day. First established in 2003, the day is intended to be a time for organizations, including the World Health Organization and the International Association for Suicide Prevention, to pledge a commitment and take action to prevent suicides around the world.
However, as many people living in Beijing will know, the city is severely lacking in mental-health resources due to a variety of awareness, language, and financial constraints. One organization that is bringing light to the cause is Beijing-based NGO CandleX who, in addition to their twice-monthly donation-based peer support groups, are creating a series of videos that will outline individual testimonies of mental health in the capital as well as guidance from licensed professionals. They plan to release those in the coming days.
CandleX also has a very comprehensive collection of mental health resources on their website, which also acts as a crib sheet should you find yourself or someone you know in crisis.
Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, we spoke to one of CandleX’s community members, who wished to remain anonymous, about their experiences as a sufferer of mental illness in Beijing. We talk about the shortcomings of the city’s mental health resources, especially in relation to suicide prevention, and what someone who may be experiencing mental distress what is available and what they can expect.
What is the current state of mental health and suicide prevention resources in Beijing?
Beijing is sorely lacking in mental health and suicide prevention resources. I went to an international hospital several years ago after attempting suicide twice in three days and they informed me they didn’t have the facilities to help me and suggested I go see a movie. Going to medical facilities and receiving medication is a traumatic experience as even in international hospitals the doctors have often not received training in mental health and are hesitant to assess, trust, or prescribe. Most people I have spoken to bring their medication in from overseas and that means they are never properly assessed, and their medication is never adjusted, nor are they supported in going off their medication if it is no longer necessary.
What is the best thing that someone can do for someone who is feeling depressed or suicidal?
Listen and don’t panic. My ability to talk about my experience, and the fact I consider myself someone who is successfully managing mental illness, stems from a support network, with who I can talk freely about my feelings without judgment. If we can’t acknowledge our feelings we can’t process and manage them. I 100 percent understand that that is a big ask when we are talking about someone you love experiencing something you can’t understand. Not everyone is able to do it without being dragged down themselves. Do what you can, be as honest as you can be about your own difficulties, and if you can be there, make sure they know. They don’t need you to save them. They just need to know they are not fighting alone.
From your point of view, what is a misconception that people have about suicide or depression?
Depression is not about being sad, please don’t ever tell a depressed person to think positively, that medication is unnecessary, that their life is great and they just need to appreciate it. We have heard it, we have tried, you are not helping.
Have you found your peers (Chinese and foreign) to be understanding of your mental health needs? If yes, how so? If no, why not?
I am honest about my mental illness to a point that is uncomfortable for some. Most people are open and supportive, though foreigners are often more able to talk about it. Mental health challenges are not exclusive to Western countries and everybody knows someone who is struggling or has succumbed to mental illness. That is why we need to talk about it, normalize it, and give people the tools to make it till tomorrow.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or simply need someone to talk to, CandleX has a comprehensive list of mental health resources on their website here. Visit the World Suicide Prevention Day here.
Image: Unsplash, CandleX