Chinese actor Qiao Renliang died by suicide on Sept. 16, just one month before his 28th birthday. Qiao suffered from depression prior to his suicide, leading many citizens to reflecton the widespread nature of depression in China.
According to those who were close to Qiao, the Shanghai-born actor was diagnosed with depression in 2015, and was at times heavily reliant on sleeping pills. However, Qiao was offered few treatments and little support for his depression. On the contrary, Qiao was reportedly told by an unnamed director during the shooting of a TV drama that he ought to be banned from acting on television due to his illness, Beijing News reported.
According to a statement from Qiao’s agency, Qiao became depressed after suffering under the pressure of a heavy work load as well as public rumors and criticism.
Several high-profile Chinese celebrities, including Hong Kong actor Leslie Cheung, have committed suicide after battling depression. Estimates indicate that there are currently some 90 million people living with depression in China, but less than 10 percent of them get treatment for their illness. Meanwhile, the majority of the 280,000 people that die by suicide in China every year have previously been diagnosed with depression.
Globally, the disease affects about 350 million people every year, and leads - directly or indirectly - to 1 million suicides. The World Health Organization has predicted that depression may become the second most widespread disease in the world by 2020.
China has vowed in a recently issued action plan to strengthen the country’s detection and treatment of mental illnesses including depression. China will also work to increase national investment in mental health, which is currently only about 1 percent of total health investment. That ratio is closer to 20 percent in many other countries, according to Beijing News.