Tackling suicide

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Tackling suicide

A suicide fad is sweeping Korea. On the spur of the moment, and influenced by a series of celebrity suicides, people are taking their own lives in increasing numbers.

The total number of suicides last year has nearly doubled since 2000. According to a report on health released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea had the highest suicide rate among member countries, 21.5 out of every 100,000 people. This was almost double the rate seen in other countries.

Suicide should be no longer viewed as a sin committed by weak and irresponsible individuals, as the situation is getting worse. Unless society is equipped with a system to prevent potential suicides, there is no other way that we can shed the dubious distinction of being the nation with the highest suicide rate.

We should actively get engaged in tackling depression, the real culprit behind suicides. Depression sufferers are around 10 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Patients can recover with steady medical treatment, but very few depression sufferers receive adequate attention. This is mainly due to a cultural climate that views mental illness as something shameful that must be hidden from public view.

Australia saw a remarkable drop in its suicide rate after pushing forward in 2000 with a national initiative named Beyond Blue, with the key goal of raising community awareness about depression.

Well aware that depression is a curable disease, the program was based on the principles that a patient should receive medical treatment, and that family, neighbors and society should be involved.

We can also learn a valuable lesson from New Zealand, where celebrities such as football players took part in a public campaign and talked about their battles with depression, letting people know that depression can be overcome. It had a positive influence over an increasing number of children and teenagers suffering from depression.

It is also necessary to expand health hot lines and strengthen public relations efforts designed to help those who feel the urge to take their own lives. There are countless occasions when the advice of experts have brought people back from the brink.

Schools should have more counselors dedicated to the mental health of children. In addition, suicide prevention education awareness programs for kids - similar to those on sex education - should be considered.

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