Part include increasing awareness and attempts to shift the

Part 1

Due to the severe increase in the rate of suicide within south Korea
in the past few decades and the subsequent catastrophic consequences that South
Korea has had to deal with, there has been a reasonably strong collective
effort from all 3 sectors within society, namely the private, public and
not-for profit, to combat the terrible reality. Despite for the weak effort
from the private sector, each sector has tried to address the root causes as
well as branch of too every demographic of society, due to the widespread
nature of the problem. Some efforts include increasing awareness and attempts
to shift the overall paradigm regarding suicide and mental illness and suicide
prevention through education and outreach. There has also been an increase in
the total amount of research and records taken regarding suicide through its
“life-cycle”, from initial causes, methods, and the flow on effects, in an
attempt to gain a deeper understanding, that can be implemented to reduce the
total suicide rate.     

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Private

Overall, my research suggests that there is a severe lacking in
the private sphere towards fighting the suicide problem in South Korea. According
to Dr Park young-ki the director of the Korean suicide prevention centre “We
don’t have any mental health professionals in the community” (1). In 2001,
there was a total of 57 private health facilities, which roughly tripled by
2013 to 168 (2), however considering that around 30% of adults in South Korea reported
having a mental illness (2), this is not sufficient. Furthermore, considering
that there is culture to hide any signs of mental illness (as it is, in Korean
culture, a sign of weakness), this number is probably higher. Another
contribution towards suicide prevention from the private sphere was the implementation
by the government of screening guidelines to include helpful information and information
relating to support networks, whenever a suicide story was presented. This has helped
contribute towards the mainstreams medias overall effort to reform the
perception of suicide and the value of life. However, some tv shows are continuing
to present suicide in a positive light, which is furthering the problem (1). My
research suggests that not enough has been done by private firms, and that more
social enterprises are required to help quell the stream of suicides.  

Public

The Korean government is aware of the suicide epidemic facing its
population and has recently implanted drastic reforms within society to combat
this, utilising 6% of government health expenditure towards mental health in
2006 (3). In, 1998 they instituted a five-year plan aimed at prevention of
suicide and have since implemented it in 2004 and 2016. The strategies main aim
is to “protect people’s invaluable life and create a culture of respect for
life” (4) and has many methods delineating how it will achieve this. The
Ministry of Health and welfare’s main goals include, the creation of a culture
of a respect of life, promotion of the importance of mental health, increase
utilisation of media to prevent suicide, increase monitoring of: individuals, means
of suicide and increased focus on risky individuals. Furthermore, there was a
push for an increase in the measurements taken in all aspects of suicide. Another
major aspect was for the establishment of suicide prevention centres that would
provide counselling, education, first response teams and follow up teams.
Recently the Minister for health and welfare has announced an additional $9.3
million US which will be used to fund an additional 500 counsellors in 241
suicide prevention centres (5). I do believe that the increased expenditure on
mental health and suicide prevention has made a major difference and will
continue to make a difference in the fight against suicide. This can clearly be
seen through the on average doubling in quantities of mental health
organisations such as psychiatric medical hospitals and community
rehabilitation centres between 2001 and 2013(2).   

Not-For-Profit

In the non-for-profit sector there is an international NGO, with
close ties to the WHO, called the International Association for Suicide
prevention (IASP), that was founded in 1960, and has many branches all over the
world. The branch in South Korea is called the Korea Association for Suicide
prevention (KASP) and was founded in 2004. 
It has 3 main methods that is uses to reduce suicide rates. Firstly, it
focuses on education both towards the public as well as trained professionals.
Secondly, it tries to promote awareness through advertising and promotional
campaigns. Lastly it focuses on research in the field of suicide (6). One of
their main objectives was the Young Health Program (YHP), which focused heavily
on education and public awareness. The initiative concluded in 2014 after 3
years of operation but I believe managed to have a massive impact. It managed
to provide mental health information to 88,184 people, while training a total
of 782 teacher and 1784 gatekeepers (6) (an average member of society), who are
now able to approach sensitive issues to reduce any risk more effectively.
Furthermore in 2013, KASP implemented an international program known as applied
suicide intervention skills training (ASIST), which managed to have total of 76
workshops with a total of 1774 participant as well as safeTALK managed to have
82 workshops with a combined 2261 participants (7). Recent studies by Columbia
university have shown that after speaking to an ASIST participant an individual
at risk feels 65% less alone and 83% less likely to feel suicidal (7). I
believe that this large exposure as well as the long-lasting legacy has and
will contribute positively towards drastically reducing the overall rates of
suicide within south Korea. This will be accomplished through a combination of,
increased exposure which has contribed to the effort to revolutionise the
perception of suicide, as well as increased exposure to support networks.

Overall, I believe that these efforts will have a big and positive
impact on Korean society. As many different factors are in play, it is
impossible to pinpoint the exact outcome, however a positive impact in one
sector can be carried through to other potentially creating a positive ripple
throughout society and saving countless lives.   

Part 2

Systems thinking- Identifying the
problem

South Korea is a relatively small
country within Asia, with a population of roughly 51 million people. It has a
deep and rich history and culture spanning back thousands of years, however in
recent decades, drastic changes within the economy, political relations, and
historical events have catapulted South Korea into becoming an economic
powerhouse within the modern era. It is currently extremely developed relative
to global standards, specifically, it is currently in the G-20, has the 5th
largest economy in the world with it capital city Seoul amassing a GDP of 635.4
B in 2015 (Statistics Korea, 2015) and currently has an HDI of 0.901 which
places it 18th in the world (UN, 2016). However, despite the strong
economy and high standards of living, South Korea is facing a significant
problem within its population. In the past 30 years, South Korea’s suicide rate
has been increasing faster than any other OECD country, increasing from 11.2
per 100000 in 1995 to 21.5 in 2006 . Furthermore, it also currently has the
highest suicide rate in the world, with an average of 18.7 for woman and 33.4
for men per 100000 (Kim, Sy,Kim,
Mh, 2010). These trends can be seen in figure
1 and 2. This is an alarming statistic, which represent more serious and
underlying issues within South Korea. The suicide rates vary within different
age groups and at different times and many reasons have been attributed towards
these unfortunate trends.

FIgures 1 and 2
(OECD data)

 

The suicide rate of older people has
been on the rise, in recent years, the main reason for this has been attributed
towards cultural reasons mixed with an increase in life expectancy. Within
Korean culture, the grandparents are looked after by the rest of the family.
This combined with an increase in life expectancy has resulted in in increased
duration of economic reliance and pressure on the family.

In 2008 for the age group of 10-19
suicide was the second highest cause of death (Lee, Seung-yeon,Jun Sung
Hong,Espelage, Dorothy L, 2010). There is no one clear cause for this terrible
trend, but rather an amalgamation of various reasons. Some reasons include
depression and other mental illnesses such as hopelessness and high levels of
stress and anxiety derived from the high stress school environment. Another
major cause may be a mix of certain addiction raging from internet addiction to
alcohol and drug abuse.(Lee, Seung-yeon,Jun Sung Hong,Espelage, Dorothy L,2010)

Further reasons for the increase in
suicide rates may be due to economic reasons. Despite the trend for suicide
increasing before 1997, there was a major spike during that time, which
correlated to the economic downturn.    

This problem within South Korea would
fall into the third category of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which are
designed to promote healthy lives and wellbeing for all ages. More specifically
it would fall under the second half of goal 3.4.2, which outlines “By 2030,
reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through
prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being “.

Blueprint for change

Ideally, the main goal would be to
reduce the total number of suicides to zero, however, that goal, no matter how
noble, is unrealistic, as such our main goal would be to reduce the total number
of suicides taking place within all demographics of society, to within the
levels experience by other major OECD countries. Besides for a reduction in the
overall number of suicides, we also have a vision to increase the prevention
rate of suicides, whereby we continually prevent suicides from taking place as
well as impede the completion of a present suicide attempt before it can be
carried out. All these goals can be achieved through the utilisation of many
methods.

The first goal, would be to try and
increase the total number of individuals who would be at risk of suicide, being
exposed to support networks and programs. This could be realised through the
creation of many institutions throughout the country that are designed to try
and support individuals who have any mental illness, history of substance abuse
or any exposure to other factor that may contribute towards suicide. The main
purpose of these centres would be support, prevention and rehabilitation to
eventually enable a full and safe integration back within the community. In the
short term, we hope to reach 10% of the at risk population and in the medium to
long term, expand slowly upwards to around 75%.

Another goal would be to reform the after-school
system to maintain the high level of academic excellence, while simultaneously
reducing the overall stress level. A recent study shows that over half the
students in south Korea have suicidal thoughts and forty percent blame them on
the schooling system (21). Our short term goal would be stress reduction, but
in the long run we would plan to try and spread a message in order to alter the
overall zeitgeist of the country away from solely academic elitism, in order to
reduce the overall pressure experienced by the students.   

The final goal would be to reduce the financial burden
faced by the older population. This would not be an easy task however, it is a worthy
goal, as this should increase the total money spent on support on the elderly,
from the current rate of 1.7% of GDP (20). A short-term goal, would be to
increase the exposure to smart investment planning from a young age, to ensure
a secure and sustainable amount of savings at retirement. A long-term outcome
would be to increase the spending on the elderly perhaps from a combination of
the public and private sector. This should hopefully reduce the financial
stresses placed on the senior community as well as the family that is
supporting them.      

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