“Are you going to die or what?” a son asked his aged father. “My company just gave me 7 days off, and I still need time to hold your funeral. ”
Left with little choice, the old man killed himself. His son held the funeral for his father and then returned to work in the city.
That is one of the grim examples discovered by Liu Yanwu, a lecturer from central China’s Wuhan University in his recent long-term field work on suicide in rural areas.
His study shows the suicide rate among old people in rural areas has seen a sharp rise since 1990.
“There’s almost no elderly people who died normally in here, ” a villager from Jingshan county, Hubei province told Liu. According to their research, about 30% old people from that village chose to end their lives early.
“All of the old people have three ‘sons’: the poison, the rope and the drowning pool. Those are the most reliable sons,” said one old villager.
“The overall suicide rate in China is in decline, but nowadays more old people in rural areas tend to end their lives in this way, ” said Liu. “Perhaps they simply cannot withstand the pressure resulting from China’s aging society.”
By 2013, the aging population in China has exceeded 200 million, accounting for 14.9% of the total population, higher than the 10% United Nation’s standard of an aging society.
Many old people appeared to die for the sake of their children: some will run away from home before they kill themselves; when an old couple both want to commit suicide, they do it at separate times to avoid suspicions.
“There’s much more complicated incentives behind those seemingly altruistic sacrifices…I think one of them is desperation,” Liu said.
Concerns of homicide
Nonetheless, some parents will not succumb to the pressure, and that’s when some children will force their parents to take action. In 2011, a family refused to provide food to an old man after he had been suffering from paralysis for years. “They wanted him to die before the Chinese New Year. But he was a tough guy. He hanged on to his last breathe until that day. ”
Specializing in the subject for over six years, Liu has urged the government to pay more attention to the issue. After the social insurance in rural areas increased to 55 yuan ( 9 US dollar) a month, more old people said they found new glimpse of hope:
“Let’s not choose suicide just yet. We can live for another two years!”