At around 9 a.m. on September 9, three firefighters had rescued a teenager who had jumped into the river near Shunjiang Lu early in the morning. Half an hour later, not far from the same spot, firefighters pulled up a body they suspect was a victim of suicide.
A sign posted along the river reads "珍爱生命,请勿下河"
("Cherish life, please don't jump into the river").
The very next day happened to be World Suicide Prevention Day.
The event wasn't, in fact, particularly coincidental: Nearly every week, there is a report of yet another suicide in the city.
Several days ago it was an 18-year-old girl from Lezhi who jumped off a bridge into the river near the Dongfeng Canal, north of the city proper. Her boyfriend, 23, witnessed the scene and dove in after her. She was seven or eight meters away from him when the current pulled her under. He spent two days riding along the river from Xindu to Longquan hoping to find her body.
This year alone, 85 bodies have been recovered from the Jinjiang River, and 54 people at river's edge have been persuaded by rescue workers to step down, reported the West China City Daily.
The 1.5-kilometer stretch between the First and Second Ring roads, with its proximity to open parks and vibrant riverside bars, has become known as a favorite spot for suicide attempts.
Annually, an estimated 100 people attempt to commit suicide by jumping into the river along this stretch.
Nobody knows why this particular stretch of the river is such a popular stage for suicides, but fire chief Chen Jun theorizes that suicidal patrons of the nearby bars might impulsively jump when they see the river. Furthermore, the riverbanks are a common meeting ground for lovers—both content and quarreling couples.
Rescue workers say that most people attempt suicide due to either romantic disappointment or financial reasons, but those in the latter category tend to be much easier to persuade not to jump.
The Fu River Management Office has called upon public security, civil affairs officers, and hospitals to end this phenomenon with systematic cooperation. So far they have placed signs every few hundred meters along a 19-kilometer stretch of the river that warn would-be jumpers—both those who might jump into the river for fun and those with heavier thoughts—"Cherish life, please don't jump into the river." To date, however, the signs have not had much effect. At every kilometer there is also a guard stationed whose job it is to patrol the banks for jumpers, and two boats are kept at the management office so that rescue work can begin immediately after a jump is reported.
Sun Xueli, a doctor at the Huaxi Mental Health Center, notes that in contrast to China, foreign countries often have in place governmental and professional organizations that work in conjunction with emergency personnel and professional counselors to prevent suicides before they take place.
Huaxi Hospital once had a 106-strong team of suicide-intervention volunteers, but unable to coordinate with 119 and other emergency groups, the group's efforts generally proved ineffective, and it officially disbanded in 2007.
In Nanjing, a bridge above the Yangtze River has been the jumping point for over 1,800 people since its construction in 1968. Given its popularity as a suicide platform, the bridge is patrolled on a daily basis.