In an interview with Xinhua, Wang Yanan sounded no different than any other energetic freshman in college. But what’s on the surface doesn’t always tell the whole story. In a calm tone, she spoke about her experience with depression.
Just after gaokao last year, Wang tried to commit suicide. “It’s not because of my grades, I just felt my life was meaningless,” she told Xinhua. “I thought I had nothing to do with the rest of the world.”
Wang’s struggle with mental health is not rare among people her age. A report by the China Youth & Children Research Center showed that about 30 million people under the age of 17 in China are dealing with emotional or behavioral disorders.
But why are teenagers more prone to these mental upheavals?
According to Zhu Yongxin, deputy secretary-general of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, academic pressure is one of the main factors.
After entering senior high, Wang felt very tired. She often went to bed at 3 or 4 am, only to rise at 5. Lack of sleep and the inability to concentrate left Wang feeling overwhelmed.
Too many examinations, struggling with competitive rankings and pressure from parents are other factors that lead to students’ psychological problems, Zhu said.
“My parents always tell me my classmates are competitors. So I view them as my enemies and feel upset whenever I see them,” Xiao Min, a 14-year-old, told Xinhua.
At a vulnerable period in life, when the ability to cope with setbacks has yet to fully develop, young people are far more susceptible to mental health issues, according to Liu Huaqing, a physician with Beijing Huilongguan Hospital.
Unfortunately, the symptoms are often ignored, met far too often with responses such as, “Why can others deal with setbacks and you can’t?” or “You are just making something out of nothing.”
Mental health is an important factor when considering the well-being of the country’s youth. And this is why the issue is being addressed. Measures such as easing workloads, avoiding public posting of test results and urging schools to stress the importance of adequate sleep have previously been taken. But in addition to these efforts, a new action plan has been put into place. The plan calls for all schools in China to offer psychological services on campus by the end of 2022.
Aside from the authorities’ efforts, families and teenagers need to be proactive, noted psychological consultant Yang Guilin. “Parents should try to be supportive, warm and open with their kids,” Yang added. “Teenagers should engage in aerobic exercise, such as playing badminton, to release negative emotions.”