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Vietnam sees alarming rise in youth suicide

Publication Date : 12-09-2012

 

Just a few months before the July university entrance exam, 19-year-old Tran Thu Huong (not her real name) thought that she was a genius with an exciting future.

"I often left school to work on new inventions as I found that my teachers weren't capable of teaching me," she said.

Huong wanted to create a machine that made the earth stop turning and another machine that can give Vietnam sunshine all year round.

"By driving back winter, the sunshine would see crops flourish people's health would improve," she added.

But, her teachers and friends didn't understand her strange ideas, leaving Huong feeling isolated.

"They shunned me, I was very lonely and I wanted to die," she said with tear-stained eyes.

A far cry from her dreams of eternal sunshine, Huong made the choice of eternal darkness and swallowed a handful of sleeping pills before lying back to die.

Fortunately, her mother realised what was happening before it was too late and called for an ambulance.

Huong is now recovering at the Mai Huong Day-care Psychiatric Hospital.

Nguyen Thi Sau, head of the hospital's Health Examining Ward, said around 6,000 people come to the hospital every year for psychological treatment and 30 per cent of them are aged 15 to 25.

Many come to Mai Huong Hospital after recovering from suicide attempts in other hospitals' emergency wards, she said.

"Taking care of psychological health is still a strange notion for residents, especially young people. Suicide can be prevented if the patients receive timely psychological consultancy and treatment," Sau added.

The latest government survey found more than 4 per cent of young people aged 14-25 had suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide in 2010, double the figure from 2006.

More than 7 per cent of the survey's 10,000 participants said they self- harm because of stress, while 21 per cent of them said they have no hope for the future. It was also found that females are twice as likely to attempt suicide than males.

Doctor Bui Quoc Thang from the Hanoi-based Paediatrics Hospital said that the most popular form of suicide was using sleeping pills, raticide and pesticide, while the main reasons are family pressures and bleak prospects.

Nguyen Thi Hien, Huong's mother, said that Huong had always been an excellent student and was studying at a famous high school in Ba Dinh District when she started having strange ideas.

"She is self-sufficient in studying and I never have to warn her about school work," she said.

After classes, she would immediately sit down at home and devote herself to studying while ignoring every entertainment.

"Perhaps too much studying and not enough leisure put pressure on my daughter and caused her delusion," said Hien.

After nearly three months of treatment at the Mai Huong Hospital, Huong still dreams about dancing school books every night.

Following the release of alarming statistics which show suicide is one of the 10 leading causes of death in Vietnam, experts have called for better support channels to cater for those suffering with depression.

Director of the Mai Huong Day-care Psychiatric Hospital Ngo Thanh Hoi called for a hotline to be set up to support people having suicidal thoughts.

"I think it is the most effective way to treat stress and psychological scars for people who cannot find anyone to talk to," he said.

Hoi also called for more specialist training courses, so that those giving advice are fully-trained experts in the field.

Nguyen Van Anh, founder of the Centre for Psychological Crisis Prevention, said that people having suicidal thoughts like Huong often want to confide in others, but don't know how to share their thoughts.

"Most people who attempt suicide have experienced a long period of sadness and disappointment," she said.

Anh confirmed that suicide can be prevented, but at the moment, people don't have skills to identify the key signs of depression.

Only 14 per cent of youths having suicidal thoughts keep away from other people, so only quick-witted people are able to recognise their strange behaviour patterns, she said.

"Vietnam has not had a professional suicide prevention system, and also lacks the individuals, organisations and programmes to prevent suicide," said Anh.

 

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