Suicide survivors repent what they didThe suicide rate in Korea has been among the highest for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries for years, and those who attempt it have many reasons, including a quick escape from their miseries.
But those who try and fail find a whole new world of misery.
“I felt like my chest was burning and would explode soon. I cannot find words to describe that pain,” said a woman surnamed Kim, 56, who tried to take her own life last Sept. 20.
Kim started to feel depressed after she was assigned a job totally different from anything she had done in her 18-year career.
She did not seek professional help. People around her said, “Get your mindset right and wake up,” but that only caused more stress.
The depression continued for months. “Death was following me,” she said.
“I wanted to give up everything and earn peace. That thought led me to make a stupid decision.” Kim swallowed several kinds of sleeping pills.
“I trusted my research from the internet that I could comfortably pass away like I was sleeping. In reality, it was totally wrong. I never knew it would hurt that brutally.”
Kim didn’t die and is grateful. “It is very fortunate to live and to stay alive,” Kim said.
From 2003 to 2016, Korea’s suicide rate was higher than any other country in the OECD, 25.6 people per hundred thousand in 2016. From 2003 to 2016, 185,998 took their own lives.
In 2016, that number was 13,092, and the number of suicide attempts is thought to be 10 to 40 times the number of people who succeed. That’s anywhere from 130,000 to 520,000 people attempting suicide yearly.
For another woman surnamed Kim, 25, her “final night” started with alcohol. She attempted suicide after drinking with a friend. The friend was concerned about her, and actually called after Kim had burned charcoal in her room. Kim said that she was vomiting and losing consciousness and begged for help.
Kim was having credit card debt problems. And then she lost her job.
When Kim woke up she was in a hospital emergency room. Extreme dizziness was torturing her; she could not stop vomiting.
“The internet is wrong when it said, ‘You won’t feel pain when you fall asleep while attempting suicide,’” said Kim. “How can dead people describe that pain? Only people who attempted suicide and failed can know the pain - that unforgettable pain.
“I am so sorry for my family,” Kim added. “I cannot even look at my mother because of the guilt inside of me. I brought shame on myself with my debt and loss of my job and I could not tell others. I was always thinking the worst and never considered seeking help. I regret that badly. If I sought professional help, I might have done things differently.”
Last June, a man surnamed Lee, 69, swallowed poison to end his life. He remembers vomiting for about 20 minutes. In the ambulance, he lost his consciousness and stayed that way for 15 days. His family made preparations for his funeral.
But Lee woke up.
The poison damaged his taste buds. He cannot taste anything except sweetness. Something is wrong with his vision as well, which is blurred.
“I will never attempt suicide again,” Lee said. “Please do not attempt suicide like I did, do not even consider it. It is terrible.”
“I have seen 10 patients whose lives were on the line after suicide attempts,” said a doctor from the emergency room of Korea University Anam Hospital. “Their faces, looks and screams are indescribable and unforgettable.”
The Korean government’s goal is to reduce the suicide rate to 17 per hundred thousand people by 2022. Seven government departments, the National Police Agency, National Fire Agency and Korea Post are included in the project. “This is the first year of a government war against suicides,” said Yang Du-suk, head of the Safety Social Group’s Suicide Prevention Center, a private civic group.
BY SHIN SUNG-SIK, ESTHER LEE, JUNG JONG-HOON AND CHOI SOO-yOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]