尽管预防自杀的活动人员一直发挥作用，教导村民多谈自己的问题，但自杀未遂的赵表示，这样的谈话跟文化规范不符。“我在村里也有朋友，但我不会跟她们讲我的苦恼。家丑不可外扬。人们看不起那些自杀的人。”至于未来，她表示不会再自杀了，她那次自杀让家里花了很多钱救治，她表示，现在必须为她十岁的大儿子存钱盖房。（作者 Maureen Fan）
In Rural China, a Bitter Way Out
Programs Take Aim at High Suicide Rate Among Hinterlands\' Poor, Young Wives
By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 15, 2007; Page A10
SANSHILIUGUNZI VILLAGE, China -- Zhao wanted to sleep. Her husband wanted to watch TV. It was as simple as that.
The poor farming couple in Hebei province had no history of quarreling, Zhao said. But on this warm September night, neither would compromise. So Zhao, 34, left the large bed she and her husband shared with their two young sons, walked outside and grabbed a bottle of pesticide from a windowsill.
\"I just drank a little bit, but it burned my throat and my mouth,\" said Zhao, who tends the crops, cares for her two boys, now 5 and 10, and runs a household of seven. \"I took it without thinking anything deep. I just felt wronged, and I acted rashly. I never thought of the two children, not a bit. I thought of nothing.\"
The sense of despair that Zhao felt seems to prevail here in rural China, particularly among women, many of whom shoulder the burdens of domestic life alone. Often, the only escape they see is to take their own lives.
The suicide rate for women in China is 25 percent higher than for men, and the rural rate is three times the urban rate. In Western countries, men are at least twice as likely and sometimes four times as likely as women to commit suicide, studies show. But in China, being young, from the countryside and female is an especially lethal combination.
Because the women who commit suicide are almost exclusively poor, their desperation is a reminder of the social inequalities that plague China and the difficulties hindering government efforts to raise rural standards of living. Despite the fast-paced modernization of cities, women in the countryside have been left to face what they consider insurmountable obstacles, often stemming from the traditional view that wives play a subservient role in the household.
\"They\'re unprepared for the great shock of the life, such as family conflict and the fast-changing social environment,\" said Xiao Jing, a researcher with a group in Hunan province that works to prevent suicide among young rural women. \"Most women who commit suicide have a poor education, earn very little and are strongly influenced by traditional thoughts of the old China.\"
Overall, the suicide rate in China is comparatively high. An estimated 287,000 Chinese kill themselves each year, a rate of 23 people per 100,000, more than double the U.S. rate, according to a study by the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center, part of Huilongguan Hospital in the capital. The rate has remained relatively stable for years, but researchers say they are now seeing more impulsive cases, like Zhao\'s, as well as cases in which increasingly younger women are attempting suicide.
In its 2002 study, the suicide prevention center found that young women who had attempted to kill themselves had on average only five years of schooling and lived in households with a median per-capita income of only $13 a month, lower than the national average. Most reported being unhappily married, more than 42 percent mentioned financial problems, and more than 38 percent said their husbands had beaten them. \"The most outstanding factor is the predominance of family conflict as a cause of attempted suicide,\" the study said.
\"Before, it was 30- to 50-year-olds. Now it\'s 15 to 34,\" said Xu Rong, project officer with a Beijing nonprofit group that assists rural women. \"Whenever their dreams and reality don\'t match, if they can\'t solve their problems, they attempt suicide.\"
In Zhao\'s case, her mother-in-law heard the argument over the TV, went outside and knocked the bottle from Zhao\'s lips. But the damage had been done. The family had to take out a loan to pay a hospital bill that amounted to a third of their annual income.
\"I felt angry. I was so tired working in the fields during the day, I couldn\'t fall asleep,\" said Zhao, who asked that her first name not be used because of the stigma attached to suicide. \"It\'s very common that in the countryside women will take pesticide when they\'re angry. I never thought of leaving my husband. Where else can I go?\"
Swallowing pesticides is a frequent method of suicide in rural China because the chemicals are so readily accessible. Studies show 58 percent of all Chinese who commit suicide use pesticides.
\"Attempted suicides outnumber completed suicides by 10 to 1. If you have a proportion who use very lethal means, the number of completed suicides is going to go up,\" said Michael R. Phillips, executive director of the Beijing suicide prevention group.
In recent years, authorities in Beijing have identified suicide as an important issue and set aside funds to study it, but they have yet to formulate a national plan or policy on the subject. Absent government action, a few pesticide companies have tried to make access to their products more difficult by providing farmers with small boxes and padlocks. Meanwhile, nonprofit groups are making progress in small villages such as Sanshiliugunzi and nearby Donghao, three hours northwest of Beijing.
Xu\'s group, the Cultural Development Center for Rural Women, has identified troubled residents in the villages and brought them to Beijing, along with community leaders, to teach them how to become more active -- taking up traditional fan dancing, for example, instead of mah-jongg. The hope is that the training will give the women a sense of purpose and stave off suicidal tendencies.
\"Several years ago, there were people committing suicide every year in this area. Now there are fewer cases, because we have more entertainment. People seem happier,\" said Sun Jiangbao, who lives in Sanshiliugunzi. Sun\'s wife, Zhao Haixia, committed suicide 10 years ago during the Spring Festival, the biggest holiday of the year and one that often brings out family conflicts.
The argument between Sun and his wife had been typical. He had contracted hepatitis, he said, and Zhao wanted him to rest rather than return to his job as a porter at a Beijing railway station.
\"She didn\'t want me to go out and work so hard but to stay home and rest,\" said Sun, who earned in Beijing nearly 70 times what his entire family made farming their land. \"I told her that I needed to sign the contract for next year but that I would come right back after signing it, but she didn\'t believe me.\"
His wife drank bittern, a bitter liquid that many farmers keep on hand to solidify soy milk for tofu. \"When I found her, she was lying on this bed, with a bowl by her side,\" Sun recalled. \"The bottom of it was black. She saw me, and said, \'From now on, you take care of our son.\' \"
In Donghao, a woman who asked to be identified only by her surname, Wang, said she had attempted suicide three times, adding that her husband had abused her repeatedly.
\"It was always a small issue,\" said Wang, 45. \"I can\'t remember how many times he beat me. Every day I was angry and unhappy. I felt life was meaningless. . . . You can see the scars on my hands, where he beat me with a stick.\"
In the West, doctors would probably treat Wang for depression and encourage her to get out of an abusive relationship. But in China, doctors and suicide prevention activists play down mental illness and focus on improving conditions in the home.
Li Guiming, 49, a local community leader who came to help Wang and later sent her and others to Beijing for training, suggested that traditional gender roles in the countryside are powerful.
\"Women are inferior from the time they\'re born,\" Li said. \"When you give birth to a girl, people say you have a poyatou, a worthless servant girl. When it\'s a boy, they say you have a dapangxiaozi, a big fat boy.\"
Wang said she no longer responds when her husband curses her, so they argue less. She helps him sell belts, socks and hats in the market four times a week, so they are earning more money. And he has mellowed with age and no longer beats her, Wang said.
Today, seven months after arguing with her husband over the TV and then attempting suicide, Zhao insists she didn\'t know the pesticide was lethal. On the other hand, she says she was prepared to die and wasn\'t trying to call her husband\'s bluff.
Although suicide prevention activists have been helpful in teaching villagers to talk more about their problems, Zhao said, such talk goes against cultural norms. \"I have friends in this village, but I won\'t share my unhappiness with them. You don\'t expose your dirty laundry to your neighbors,\" she said. \"People look down on those who commit suicide. They\'re considered losers.\"
As for the future, she said, suicide was out of the question: \"I will never do it again. We wasted so much money. My eldest son is 10 years old. I\'ve got to save money to build a house for him.\"
Researcher Jin Ling contributed to this report.