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Suicide in Korea – a National Problem

After baseball player Cho Sung Min committed suicide earlier this month, a few professionals are beginning to raise some flags about the national problem. President of Seoul National Hospital, Ha Kyoo Seob, jumped in front of cameras at a press conference said the media should tone down their sensationalism after a famous suicide. Korean media, he says, has a tendency to lay out the detailed methods of how a person conducts their own suicide thereby influencing others, particularly those who are teens or in their early 20s.

The director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, Professor Paul Yip, also made news this week on the subject. He said that the media should play a part of helping this problem in that they fail to discuss the issues surrounding the mental illness.

“I think there’s a lot of people who commit suicide, they do suffer mental illness, they do suffer from depression, [but] this information is not usually reported in the media,” he said.

“They always say that it’s because of a failure of an exam, or illness.

“And just to simplify the cause of suicide is it not a very useful way to promote this correct awareness of the mental wellness.”

Suicide rates rise dramatically after a famous person kills himself.  When Cho Sung Min’s actress wife killed herself a few years back the suicide rates rose an astonishing 70%. Koreans dramas that portray suicides often romanticize about it. Ha says he’d like to see more TV shows that portray someone actually getting mental health help and dealing with the problem rather than killing themselves.

Late last year, UlsanOnline reported on how Korea currently deals with the notion of suicide – happy little statues on Mapo bridge from which people jump. If you’re about to jump, the happy little statues will make you feel better and you’ll go back to your nightmare of 20 hour days of high school, your 100 hour work week of work, the endless competition to be the best or other depressing issues.

Korean society plays down most of mental illness and stress that one should just be strong and pick oneself up and carry on. Those that can’t just aren’t strong enough.

Korea has the highest suicide rate in the developed world with 32 per 100,000 taking their own life.

It’s way past time to start acting like a developed nation and understand, as a society,  what mental health is and isn’t and deal with this problem. It’s an illness, not a weakness.