[EDITORIALS]A shameful numberMore than 8,600 Koreans took their own lives last year, an unprecedented high number that surpassed the number of those who died in traffic accidents. The fourth highest suicide rate among the 29 OECD members, this number is a shameful index of how our society is a sick one that presses death on its members. There has been a recent rise in the suicide rate of those in their 30s and younger, which means suicide now undermines the stability of households that are the foundation of society. Hardly a week seems to pass without news of how a parent in his or her 30s committed suicide after killing spouse and children because of household debts. Web sites that encourage teenagers to choose death are springing up every day.
Those who choose suicide have one thing in common. It is that they have let go of hope in the depths of desperation. Society, full of materialism and the arrogant belittling of life, is cruel to those who incur debts, those who lose love, those under stress from college entrance exams or finding a job, those who are bullied and all those who need a helping hand in their loneliness and desperation.
We should not let this society remain thus diseased. We need to build a social network and a caring environment that can at least lend an ear to these cries. This would include installing more 24-hour hotlines and counseling Web sites, and individual efforts to better communicate with our families.
We also need to change our attitude toward depression. Many who commit suicide are found to have suffered from depression, but their families had often passed it off as a temporary spell. This is due to a lack of understanding about mental illness. The government and medical organizations should actively inform the public that depression is a condition that can be cured with proper treatment. They should also provide measures such as therapy for those who survive suicide attempts so that they don’t repeat their attempts. Suicide is often the last measure of resisting a cruel and heartless society. No one lives to die. We should not forget that even to a suicide, life was something worth keeping that just could not be kept.