"I can't hold on, I'm going!" Just after valentine's day this year, li fan, a 21-year-old Chinese student, took the drug to commit suicide after leaving a message on his personal microblog. He soon lost consciousness.
He suffered from depression when he was a sophomore at a university in nanjing. After owing a few network loans and feeling to also encounter a problem, he begins suspend schooling to be at home, decide to commit suicide secretly.
Although he had not told anyone about the decision, more than 8,000 kilometers away in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, a program code-named "tree-hole robot 002" was activated in a computer and soon detected li fan's post.
A rescue operation was launched around him, and several volunteers from all over China set up an online rescue team. After discovering that li fan may have fallen into a coma, volunteers contacted the police and he was eventually rescued and taken to hospital.
Li fan's story may seem thrilling, but it is just the daily life of the online group called tree hole rescue team. It is a vast network of nearly 600 volunteers from all over China. It was created by huang zhisheng, an ai scholar at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
李凡的故事看起来惊心动魄，但却只是这个名为“树洞救援队”的网络组织的日常。这是一个由近600名来自中国各个地方志愿者组成的庞大网络。它的创立者是荷兰阿姆斯特丹自由大学（Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam）人工智能学者黄智生。
In the past year and a half, the tree hole rescue team has prevented nearly 1,000 suicides by cooperating with other volunteers through the robot program developed by huang. More than 700 survivors have been rescued, removing a few duplicate cases.
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"Save ten every week."
"I don't think I can hesitate any longer. A day later is a day of life," huang zhisheng, a professor of Chinese descent who traveled to China for a conference in a hotel on the eastern outskirts of Beijing, told the BBC.
He said the idea for the tree hole rescue team came from seeing more and more people around him were prone to depression. So in 2018, he created a program to find people on public social media who were psychologically in need of help.
The tree hole rescue team was founded by chinese-dutch ai scholar huang zhisheng.
His work soon won support from friends and peers, and dozens of medical and ai scholars became the first responders. They based on the machine to find the account target, further implementation of rescue.
Their first rescue was on April 29, 2018. When a 22-year-old female college student tweeted that she planned to kill herself on May 1, members jumped into action. Peng ling, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who studies digital cities, is one of them.
Peng ling told the BBC that people get clues from other posts by the girl, tao yue. "Boys with me just want to have fun... I don't deserve to live in this world. Rescuers quickly determined that the girl might be having emotional problems.
In an earlier post, the team found the contact information of the girl's boyfriend, who obtained tao yue's mobile phone and notified the school.
"I sent her a text message just before I went to bed, telling her it was normal for things to go wrong and that I could pick her up and visit Beijing," Ms. Peng said. "I didn't expect her to reply, but then I added my WeChat and gradually calmed down. Later, I asked her if she had eaten anything in the morning, middle and evening. Every week, we also sent her a bunch of flowers online."
Volunteers face not only temporary relief, but also long-term companionship.
After the first rescue operation was successful, the tree hole rescue team began to work intensively. Because of physical disability to jump off a bridge, because I owe money to commit suicide in a hotel... It's like something out of a movie or a novel, almost every day in a rescue group.
"Rescue requires both luck and experience," said li hong, a beijing-based psychologist who has been with the rescue team for nearly a year. In one case, she said, to save a woman who committed suicide in a hotel in chengdu, sichuan province, she and her team searched eight similar hotels and had to make phone calls.
"All the hotel front desk operators said they didn't know about it, but one receptionist hesitated, and we suspected it was the hotel," Ms. Li said.
Although the follow-up rescue requires the volunteers to locate manually, the identification of potential targets in the early stage and the determination of emergency degree are done automatically by the machine.
Mr. Huang said he USES a program written in JAVA to monitor specific 'tree holes' on microblogs during a fixed period of time each day and interpret the semantics of microblogs with keywords.
His post, written seven years ago before he committed suicide, has become one of the biggest "tree holes" on Chinese Internet platforms. More than 1 million comments have been left.
"Tree hole" is a popular term among young Chinese and is said to have originated from an Irish fairy tale about a barber who confides in a tree. Many people compare tree holes to places where secrets can be recorded.
In 2012, a 23-year-old Chinese student posted on his weibo account, walking fan, saying, "I have depression, so I'm going to die. There's no important reason.
Local police later confirmed that sanfan had committed suicide before the regular post. But what she may not have expected is that her last words have become a "tree hole". Every day, tens of thousands of netizens leave comments, telling their own thoughts and even expressing the idea of killing themselves.
Statistics from tree hole rescue team show that people with suicidal thoughts are mainly aged between 16 and 26, and the peak time for messages in tree hole is from 10 PM to 2 am, about 1:3 for every male and female.
The ai program automatically divides the captured messages into 10 levels, with 10 being the highest level of urgency, meaning a suicide is in progress, followed by 9, meaning a clearly planned suicide attempt.
Li hong, a beijing-based psychological consultant, said the tree hole rescue has taken up more than half of her life. She has rescued nearly 30 people.
In such cases, Mr. Huang said, volunteers try to call the police directly or his family or friends. However, if it is below level 6, which means publishing some world-weary words, the volunteers will not take direct action.
"At the highest level, life is at stake. Life is above all else. But if it's not that urgent, we won't continue to search for information or take action to protect privacy, "Mr. Huang said.
How to strike a balance between suicide intervention and social media privacy protection has been a controversial topic.
The Samaritans, a British voluntary agency, launched a service called Samaritans Radar on Twitter in 2014. Once users post negative words, the system sends emails to their friends. The program was shut down nine days after it went live, sparking a huge privacy controversy.
Li hong told the BBC that financial problems, such as lack of Internet loans, were the main reason boys wanted to commit suicide, while girls were "trapped in love". But behind these direct factors, quite a few people share a common trait -- varying degrees of depression.
According to the world health organization (WHO), as of 2017, more than 320 million people worldwide suffered from depression, including more than 54 million people in China, equivalent to four out of 100 people suffering from depression.
Mr. Huang's program automatically retrieves keywords on the microblogging platform, ranks them and generates a suicide alert.
However, depression is not a "big problem" in China's rural areas or in the minds of many older generations.
"I knew I had depression when I was in high school, but my mother told me it was absolutely impossible, don't think about it," li told the BBC.
It is this neglect that makes some people with depression suffer more and even die.
More than half of China's 250, 000 or so suicides each year are depression, and one every 20 seconds, the state-run science and technology daily reported.
Huang zhisheng's robot once found a post on the Internet: "I will visit mount wuyi during the New Year, and I will jump off the building after the New Year." it came from a female student. According to the message, rescuers searched for the girl's mother, but she said: "my daughter was talking and laughing just now. Why do you think she wants to die?"
Rescue workers showed the mother a diagnosis of her daughter's major depression, but she still ignored it. Until that day, the daughter was ready to jump from the building, was rescued by the police.
Depression accounts for more than half of the estimated 250,000 suicides in China each year, with one every 20 seconds.
More and more people are joining the rescue team, but huang said it is still a drop in the ocean for the huge number of people who want to commit suicide online.
"Because microblogs limit the frequency of grabs, we are currently able to detect more than 3,000 objects per day. But even then, we can only save one or two a day on average, and only the most urgent, "he said.
Another, bigger problem for rescuers is the company of the person they bring back.
"A big part of my life right now is occupied by these tree hole babies. Sometimes it's exhausting, "said li hong. She still has a long chat with the eight rescued. "When they leave me messages about their confusion, I usually immediately respond," she said.
In addition to online companionship, li said some of the team members are also looking for ways to help rescue victims solve practical difficulties. For example, an ai scholar once helped a social phobia sufferer find a job tagging data.
Although there are more than 600 volunteers so far, they are still a drop in the bucket compared to the huge number of suicides, huang said.
But for those who have not completely untangled their hearts, they may commit suicide again. For example, tao yue mentioned above.
After she was rescued, tao yue was "looking better and better every day" and was even ready to go back to school, peng said. But her life came to a screeching halt one weekend when she swallowed pills and killed herself.
"I still don't know why, she was still talking to me on Friday about her new WeChat profile picture," peng ling said. "The sudden departure of someone who had been with you for so long was a big shock."
Li fan, who was also rescued, has now found a job as a hotel receptionist. "I like it because I can meet different people," he said.
Despite their efforts, he says, most of the time they are still only able to solve the immediate problem. He believes that his efforts and the understanding of his relatives are more important.
"As lu xun said, human beings have many joys and sorrows that are not related to each other, and we need to get out of them by ourselves," he said.