Depressed student who thought taking anti-depressants was the 'ultimate shame' kills herself
23-year-old Xinyu Wang was found hanging inside her bedroom after college staff became concerned that she had missed several of her lectures
An inquest into the death of a Chinese masters student studying accounting and financial management at the Lancaster University who killed herself heard that she refused to take anti-depressant medication because she believed it would be seen as the "ultimate shame" for her family back home.
According to the Daily Mail, 23-year-old Xinyu Wang did not believe in the concept of mental illness and thought it would be regarded as "culturally appropriate" in her native China. Before her suicide, she had been admitted to the hospital this past January after she cut her wrists in her college accommodation.
She had successfully managed to keep that suicide attempt a secret from her parents in Shanghai because of confidentiality and privacy laws, reportedly telling the healthcare workers looking after her that she did not need their help and that she "did not understand why they were bothered about her."
Two months after she was released from the hospital, she was found hanging inside her bedroom after staff became concerned that she had missed several of her lectures. While little was known about her behavior in the weeks and months leading up to her death, multiple medical health professionals testified at the inquest and revealed their insights on the 23-year-old's mental health and how she apparently gave the impression that she did not want to be doing the course at all.
Psychiatrist Dr. Charlotte Busby explained how Wang had been in a spiral of negative thoughts and that, despite their best efforts, she refused to warm up to the concept of mental illness. She also said that the 23-year-old possibly survived the first attempt because of the people around her but that she did not want to accept this was a mental health problem.
"She had negative thoughts and said she did not want to be here. We looked at therapeutic work and we talked about different types of antidepressants and how they work," Busby said. "She did not have an insight into what mental illness was, she did not believe in depression and mental illness and believed it was not culturally appropriate to be depressed. She would have seen going to the hospital or using medication to be the ultimate shame for her and her family."
Mental health nurse Helen Black said that she and staff would sometimes go around for a walk with Wang because they were worried about her, adding how the student refused to accept medication because she was "sensitive" to it. Black also revealed how the 23-year-old was baffled so many people were bothered about her well-being and that she eventually asked the staff to not come around to see her anymore, promising she would see university counselor on a monthly basis instead.
"She consistently said that she would not try and harm herself again because a lot of fuss was made about it," Black said. "She was really keen that her family did not know some of the things she was telling us. We did encourage her to speak to her mother who she seemed to have some bond with. The family dynamics were quite complicated and she talked a lot about family issues and how she was feeling."
Hilary Simmons, Head of Colleges and Student Life at Lancaster University said they had considered informing her parents and breaking confidentiality but that they decided not to after she showed genuine signs of progress. "My understanding was that she would not tell her family because of the shame around what had happened," she said. "Her counselor continued to meet with her and actually we thought she was doing better, she was getting more involved with friends."
"She had just moved accommodation at the point from one flat where the January incident had happened. We felt that had given her a new start but perhaps looking back on it it was a new group of students who did not know her," she added.
As someone born after China's population control 'one-child-per-family' policies introduced in 1979, Wang was her parents' only child. Addressing the issue, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Zuo, who attended the inquest on behalf of Miss Wang's family said, "The parents feel like they should have known what happened. In China, families can only have one child, like this family. Her father can hardly deal with this and this has completely broken this family. Her parents still want to know why they did not know until her death."