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(News Focus) S. Korea takes various measures to cope with high suicide rate

All News 17:49 September 09, 2016

By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- In South Korea, an average of 14,000 people commit suicide a year as of 2014, which is about 38 deaths every day, resulting in over 6.4 trillion won (US$6.08 billion) in losses in terms of social and economic costs, government officials said Friday, citing statistics.

That is also about 27.3 people per 100,000 South Koreans taking their own lives, despite that suicide is largely preventable, they said.

Saturday marks the 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day inaugurated under the theme of "connect, communicate, care" to further promote suicide prevention.

South Korea has recorded the highest suicide rate among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) over the past 12 years.

An average of 29.1 people per 100,000 in South Korea took their own lives in 2012, far surpassing the OECD average of 12, according to the OECD Health Data 2015.

The suicide rate in Asia's fourth-largest economy has sharply increased since 2000, bucking the global trend that has declined over the past two decades.

There were 21.8 suicide cases per 100,000 people in 2006, 26 in 2008 and 31.2 cases in 2010. In 2011, more than 15,000 people took their own lives, and the number of daily suicide victims came to 44.

(News Focus) S. Korea takes various measures to cope with high suicide rate - 1

Most recently, several high-profile figures were found dead after taking their own lives.

Earlier this week, baseball commentator, Ha Il-sung, took his own life a few months after he was indicted over fraud allegations.

Last month, the vice chairman of the country's fifth-largest conglomerate Lotte Group, Lee In-won, was found dead while he was waiting for a summons from prosecutors over corruption allegations involving the group.

Experts say that more than 90 percent of those who committed suicide have sent signals before their deaths, noting that suicides can be largely prevented through people paying attention.

"The issue of suicide can be solved like in many countries where people took an interest in the issue," said a health ministry official said, stressing the importance of noticing.

A recent study shows that suicide has become the fourth most common cause of death and is the number one cause of death for South Koreans aged between 10 and 30.

Following mounting concerns over the uptrend in the number of suicides, the government unveiled a package of measures for the next four years in an aim to decrease the number from 27.3 per 100,000 persons in 2015 to 20 per 100,000 persons by 2020.

Under the measures, the ministry said it will encourage more patients with depression to visit psychiatric clinics.

Experts pointed that it would take an average of 1.6 years for a person with metal instability to detect his or own her problem and seek proper treatment.

(News Focus) S. Korea takes various measures to cope with high suicide rate - 2

According to a recent study, 24.7 percent of people suffer from a mental disorder, such as anxiety or alcoholism, at least once in their life.

Also, the health ministry allocated 4.9 billion won in budget for business related efforts to improving mental health, an 8.2 percent increase from a year earlier.

The budget will be used to hire more suicide experts at emergency rooms in hospitals across the country, officials said.

The government will also strengthen measures to prevent suicide among students such as having schools warn the parents with a text message.

According to the ministry data, the number of students who committed suicide from 2009 to 2014 came to 878. After peaking at 202 in 2009, the figure has been on a steady decline to 123 in 2013 and 118 last year.

About 40 percent of the students took their own lives because of family discord or other family-related problems, while depression over low school scores and school violence and bullying were blamed for 10.7 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, of the deaths.

Also, the health ministry launched a set of campaigns to ward off suicide attempts and help people who have attempted to kill themselves by talking to them. The campaigns aim to create a "life-respecting culture" to ward off suicide attempts and help people who have attempted to kill themselves by asking them if they are doing "fine," the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.

The ministry said it will also conduct a series of promotional events with dancers and singers that aim to talk about hope instead of despair.

The measures come as people who have a family member with a history of attempted suicide may be more vulnerable to committing suicide themselves, pointing out the need for suicide prevention therapy to be offered to the entire family.

"Someone with a history of other family members being involved in suicide not only feels sadness and guilt but also other kinds of complex psychological pain such as self-loathing and anger," said psychiatric professor Ahn Yong-min of Seoul National University.

Experts pointed out that while society currently focuses on psychological treatment for those who have attempted suicide, everyone needs to expand the efforts to his or her family to effectively prevent it.

(News Focus) S. Korea takes various measures to cope with high suicide rate - 3


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