The Seoul subway system is probably the world's most extensive and because of recently installed platform screen doors--the only subway to do so--one of the safest. With this change, the number of those who have committed suicide by jumping in front of an on-coming train has declined dramatically. Suicides of those jumping into the Han River, however, have increased, with most taking place at the Mapo Bridge. In an effort to change the negative image of the bridge, colorful pictures and life-affirming words can be seen posted around the bridge to dissuade future suicides.
Culture of Life column of the Peace Weekly once again reports on this
suicide problem in Korea, suggesting that several causal factors may be
responsible for the increase: the rapid change to an industrialized
society, the difficult experience during the IMF period, and the
advancing age of the population.
The column notes that in
2010 there were 15,566 suicides, an increase of 19 percent from the
previous year, and three times the average of the OECD countries. One
person's death by suicide affects, the
columnist says, at least 6 people. And for every suicide the conjecture
is that 10 times that number have attempted suicide, and
10 times the number of attempted suicides have considered suicide. She
comes up with an overall figure
of about 5 percent of the population that have been directly or
indirectly affected by the problem.
New York City there are 5.5 suicides per 100,000 people, in London 9,
18.2, Tokyo 23, and in Seoul 26. What are we to make of these numbers? she asks. Why is New
York City so low? She believes that because of the 9/11 terror attack,
New Yorkers have become more sensitive to the needs of fellow citizens
this concern has spread throughout the city. And the city government has
also helped by setting up a city-wide aid system.
In Korea the
older the person the more likely the suicide. For those over seventy,
the rate of suicides per 100,000 is over 100. In all age categories, the
men have a higher suicide rate than the women, except for men in their
twenties, where it's the same as it is for the women. The reasons
generally given for the country's high suicide rates are many, but
usually include the increasing divorce rate, childless marriages, the
number of those living alone in the country, the lack of family time
together, and an insensitivity for those unable to thrive in our
competitive society, because of age or lack of skills.
columnist believes the main reasons for suicides are 'being alone',
being out of work, the loss of a loved one, a mental trauma, dependence
on alcohol, and despondency--perhaps the most important factor
contributing to the high rate of suicides. Many with serious diseases
are also vulnerable to suicidal thoughts when a feeling of helplessness
may be needed to prevent suicides, the columnist suggests, may be no
more complicated than for each of us to become more compassionate, more
sensitive and empathetic to the suffering experienced by many in our
society. When these problems arise we need to provide opportunities for
those who are struggling by offering them ongoing assistance until they can help
themselves. And the mass media should do their part by publicizing the
available programs, such as the Gatekeeper program, which intends to
make us more sensitive to those who are struggling to make it in our society. But
even without these worthwhile programs, we must remember that all of us
have a mission to further the culture of life and to bring hope to
those who have lost it.