Part 1Due to the severe increase in the rate of suicide within south Koreain the past few decades and the subsequent catastrophic consequences that SouthKorea has had to deal with, there has been a reasonably strong collectiveeffort from all 3 sectors within society, namely the private, public andnot-for profit, to combat the terrible reality. Despite for the weak effortfrom the private sector, each sector has tried to address the root causes aswell as branch of too every demographic of society, due to the widespreadnature of the problem. Some efforts include increasing awareness and attemptsto shift the overall paradigm regarding suicide and mental illness and suicideprevention through education and outreach. There has also been an increase inthe total amount of research and records taken regarding suicide through its”life-cycle”, from initial causes, methods, and the flow on effects, in anattempt to gain a deeper understanding, that can be implemented to reduce thetotal suicide rate.
PrivateOverall, my research suggests that there is a severe lacking inthe private sphere towards fighting the suicide problem in South Korea. Accordingto Dr Park young-ki the director of the Korean suicide prevention centre “Wedon’t have any mental health professionals in the community” (1). In 2001,there was a total of 57 private health facilities, which roughly tripled by2013 to 168 (2), however considering that around 30% of adults in South Korea reportedhaving a mental illness (2), this is not sufficient. Furthermore, consideringthat there is culture to hide any signs of mental illness (as it is, in Koreanculture, a sign of weakness), this number is probably higher. Anothercontribution towards suicide prevention from the private sphere was the implementationby the government of screening guidelines to include helpful information and informationrelating to support networks, whenever a suicide story was presented. This has helpedcontribute towards the mainstreams medias overall effort to reform theperception of suicide and the value of life.
However, some tv shows are continuingto present suicide in a positive light, which is furthering the problem (1). Myresearch suggests that not enough has been done by private firms, and that moresocial enterprises are required to help quell the stream of suicides. PublicThe Korean government is aware of the suicide epidemic facing itspopulation and has recently implanted drastic reforms within society to combatthis, utilising 6% of government health expenditure towards mental health in2006 (3). In, 1998 they instituted a five-year plan aimed at prevention ofsuicide and have since implemented it in 2004 and 2016.
The strategies main aimis to “protect people’s invaluable life and create a culture of respect forlife” (4) and has many methods delineating how it will achieve this. TheMinistry of Health and welfare’s main goals include, the creation of a cultureof a respect of life, promotion of the importance of mental health, increaseutilisation of media to prevent suicide, increase monitoring of: individuals, meansof suicide and increased focus on risky individuals. Furthermore, there was apush for an increase in the measurements taken in all aspects of suicide. Anothermajor aspect was for the establishment of suicide prevention centres that wouldprovide counselling, education, first response teams and follow up teams.Recently the Minister for health and welfare has announced an additional $9.3million US which will be used to fund an additional 500 counsellors in 241suicide prevention centres (5).
I do believe that the increased expenditure onmental health and suicide prevention has made a major difference and willcontinue to make a difference in the fight against suicide. This can clearly beseen through the on average doubling in quantities of mental healthorganisations such as psychiatric medical hospitals and communityrehabilitation centres between 2001 and 2013(2). Not-For-ProfitIn the non-for-profit sector there is an international NGO, withclose ties to the WHO, called the International Association for Suicideprevention (IASP), that was founded in 1960, and has many branches all over theworld. The branch in South Korea is called the Korea Association for Suicideprevention (KASP) and was founded in 2004. It has 3 main methods that is uses to reduce suicide rates. Firstly, itfocuses on education both towards the public as well as trained professionals.Secondly, it tries to promote awareness through advertising and promotionalcampaigns. Lastly it focuses on research in the field of suicide (6).
One oftheir main objectives was the Young Health Program (YHP), which focused heavilyon education and public awareness. The initiative concluded in 2014 after 3years of operation but I believe managed to have a massive impact. It managedto provide mental health information to 88,184 people, while training a totalof 782 teacher and 1784 gatekeepers (6) (an average member of society), who arenow able to approach sensitive issues to reduce any risk more effectively.Furthermore in 2013, KASP implemented an international program known as appliedsuicide intervention skills training (ASIST), which managed to have total of 76workshops with a total of 1774 participant as well as safeTALK managed to have82 workshops with a combined 2261 participants (7). Recent studies by Columbiauniversity have shown that after speaking to an ASIST participant an individualat risk feels 65% less alone and 83% less likely to feel suicidal (7). Ibelieve that this large exposure as well as the long-lasting legacy has andwill contribute positively towards drastically reducing the overall rates ofsuicide within south Korea. This will be accomplished through a combination of,increased exposure which has contribed to the effort to revolutionise theperception of suicide, as well as increased exposure to support networks. Overall, I believe that these efforts will have a big and positiveimpact on Korean society.
As many different factors are in play, it isimpossible to pinpoint the exact outcome, however a positive impact in onesector can be carried through to other potentially creating a positive ripplethroughout society and saving countless lives. Part 2Systems thinking- Identifying theproblemSouth Korea is a relatively smallcountry within Asia, with a population of roughly 51 million people. It has adeep and rich history and culture spanning back thousands of years, however inrecent decades, drastic changes within the economy, political relations, andhistorical events have catapulted South Korea into becoming an economicpowerhouse within the modern era. It is currently extremely developed relativeto global standards, specifically, it is currently in the G-20, has the 5thlargest economy in the world with it capital city Seoul amassing a GDP of 635.
4B in 2015 (Statistics Korea, 2015) and currently has an HDI of 0.901 whichplaces it 18th in the world (UN, 2016). However, despite the strongeconomy and high standards of living, South Korea is facing a significantproblem within its population. In the past 30 years, South Korea’s suicide ratehas been increasing faster than any other OECD country, increasing from 11.2per 100000 in 1995 to 21.5 in 2006 . Furthermore, it also currently has thehighest suicide rate in the world, with an average of 18.
7 for woman and 33.4for men per 100000 (Kim, Sy,Kim,Mh, 2010). These trends can be seen in figure1 and 2. This is an alarming statistic, which represent more serious andunderlying issues within South Korea. The suicide rates vary within differentage groups and at different times and many reasons have been attributed towardsthese unfortunate trends.FIgures 1 and 2(OECD data) The suicide rate of older people hasbeen on the rise, in recent years, the main reason for this has been attributedtowards cultural reasons mixed with an increase in life expectancy. WithinKorean culture, the grandparents are looked after by the rest of the family.
This combined with an increase in life expectancy has resulted in in increasedduration of economic reliance and pressure on the family.In 2008 for the age group of 10-19suicide was the second highest cause of death (Lee, Seung-yeon,Jun SungHong,Espelage, Dorothy L, 2010). There is no one clear cause for this terribletrend, but rather an amalgamation of various reasons. Some reasons includedepression and other mental illnesses such as hopelessness and high levels ofstress and anxiety derived from the high stress school environment. Anothermajor cause may be a mix of certain addiction raging from internet addiction toalcohol and drug abuse.
(Lee, Seung-yeon,Jun Sung Hong,Espelage, Dorothy L,2010)Further reasons for the increase insuicide rates may be due to economic reasons. Despite the trend for suicideincreasing before 1997, there was a major spike during that time, whichcorrelated to the economic downturn. This problem within South Korea wouldfall into the third category of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which aredesigned to promote healthy lives and wellbeing for all ages. More specificallyit 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 throughprevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being “.Blueprint for changeIdeally, the main goal would be toreduce the total number of suicides to zero, however, that goal, no matter hownoble, is unrealistic, as such our main goal would be to reduce the total numberof suicides taking place within all demographics of society, to within thelevels experience by other major OECD countries. Besides for a reduction in theoverall number of suicides, we also have a vision to increase the preventionrate of suicides, whereby we continually prevent suicides from taking place aswell as impede the completion of a present suicide attempt before it can becarried out. All these goals can be achieved through the utilisation of manymethods.
The first goal, would be to try andincrease the total number of individuals who would be at risk of suicide, beingexposed to support networks and programs. This could be realised through thecreation of many institutions throughout the country that are designed to tryand support individuals who have any mental illness, history of substance abuseor any exposure to other factor that may contribute towards suicide. The mainpurpose of these centres would be support, prevention and rehabilitation toeventually enable a full and safe integration back within the community. In theshort term, we hope to reach 10% of the at risk population and in the medium tolong term, expand slowly upwards to around 75%. Another goal would be to reform the after-schoolsystem to maintain the high level of academic excellence, while simultaneouslyreducing the overall stress level. A recent study shows that over half thestudents in south Korea have suicidal thoughts and forty percent blame them onthe schooling system (21). Our short term goal would be stress reduction, butin the long run we would plan to try and spread a message in order to alter theoverall zeitgeist of the country away from solely academic elitism, in order toreduce the overall pressure experienced by the students. The final goal would be to reduce the financial burdenfaced by the older population.
This would not be an easy task however, it is a worthygoal, 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 toincrease the exposure to smart investment planning from a young age, to ensurea secure and sustainable amount of savings at retirement. A long-term outcomewould be to increase the spending on the elderly perhaps from a combination ofthe public and private sector.
This should hopefully reduce the financialstresses placed on the senior community as well as the family that issupporting them. Word count: 1977