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Suicide prevention

Publication Date : 11-09-2012


The World Health Organisation said in a recent report that approximately 1 million people worldwide die by their own hand each year, corresponding to one death by suicide every 40 seconds. The report, released ahead of the World Suicide Prevention Day that fell on Monday, called for urgent action to tackle the problem, noting “suicide is largely preventable.”

This call should be seriously heard by officials in Korea, which has the highest suicide rate among industrialised countries.

According to statistics from the 34-member Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 28.4 in every 100,000 people committed suicide in Korea in 2009, compared with the OECD average of 11.3. Particularly the suicide rate of Korean women stood at 19.7, nearly four times the OECD average of 5.1.

Data from Statistics Korea showed that 15,566 Koreans, or 42.6 every day, killed themselves in 2010, with suicide being the largest reason for deaths among adolescents. The suicide rate of elderly Koreans amounted to 81.9 per 100,000, dwarfing the corresponding figures of 17.9 in Japan and 14.5 in the US.

According to a survey by the Health and Welfare Ministry, 15.6 per cent of Koreans give serious consideration to committing suicide and 3.2 per cent try to kill themselves at least once during their lifetime.

To address the worsening problem effectively, the public should have the perception that in more cases, suicide is socially, rather than individually, motivated. With Korean society going through rapid changes, fierce competition and collapse of social norms have driven many people into mental disorder, which often leads to suicide attempts.

A scrutiny into suicides committed in recent years shows that many of them were consequences of bullying, rape, school violence, academic pressure, workplace stress and poverty among other things.

In this context, the government is urged to strengthen efforts to prevent suicide in more comprehensive and systematic ways, matching the magnitude and seriousness of the problem. The WHO report indicated that it was “imperative” that governments around the world invest human and financial resources in suicide prevention through their health, social and other relevant sectors.

The administration should immediately increase the budget for supporting suicide prevention programs, which remains at a meager 2 billion won (US$1.77 million), less than one-hundredth of Japan’s spending on them.

Short-term measures should focus on stopping people with high risk of committing suicide from going so far as to take their lives. More fundamentally, efforts are needed to correct social values distorted in the process of rapid growth and get people to have a heightened respect for life.


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