A new survey found nearly 3.7 million Koreans have psychiatric disorders associated with a high risk of suicide, highlighting the need for the government and society to step up preventive measures.
According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, a total of 3.68 million people higher chances of dying by suicide because of their prolonged mental disorders such as depression and mood disorders.
About 28 percent of Koreans have suicidal ideas more than once in their lifetime, especially during extreme levels of stress, the report said. By gender, the number of women with a high level of suicidal despair was 2.6 million, 2.4 times more than that of men, it added. Mental illnesses are a major factor associated with suicide. About 10-15 percent of patients with depression die through suicide, according to a separate report by the World Health Organization.
In order to prevent suicides, the government needs to identify, assess and manage patients who have history of attempting suicide or are at higher risk of suicide, the state-run health agency said. Currently, mental health centers under local governments are in charge of managing patients with a high risk of mental disorders. But the level of services needs to be improved to better deal with an increasing number of suicide cases, it added.
The report came two days after Cho Sung-min, a former baseball player and the ex-husband of late actress Choi Jin-sil, was found dead in an apparent suicide on Sunday.
Choi killed herself in late 2008 and her younger brother, Jin-young, also died by suicide in 2010.
The case, which went widely public, also raised concerns that their tragic story could lead to copycat suicides. A day after the news of Cho’s death spread, seven people committed suicide in Busan alone, reports say.
The psychological and social impact of suicide on the family and society is enormous, according to World Health Organization, adding that a single suicide case affects at least six other people on average.
Cases of Korean celebrities committing suicides in recent years actually led to an immediate increase in the number of suicides across the country, said Ha Kyu-seob, director of Seoul National Hospital.
Choi’s death in October 2008, in particular, was followed by an increase of 1,000 more suicides for that month. Of the total, 66 percent of people who committed suicide and died chose the same method as Choi.
“About 600 more people died in apparent suicide, in the same month the news of celebrity suicide went viral through mass media. This proves how suicide reports have serious impact on society,” said Ha who also chairs the Korean Association of Suicide Prevention.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org