Friday, July 18, 2014

Suicides in Korean Society

Korea for the past ten years leads the  developed countries of the world in the number of suicides. Embarrassment is a result of these statistics published each year, and talk of an infrastructure to deal with the problem continues to appear. The Catholic Times covered the story on the front page with an accompanied article and editorial.

The numbers of suicides of those over sixty continues to increase. The statistics according to age, under 60 the numbers of suicides are not much different from other countries, but with the elderly we have a vastly different picture. For 100 thousand of the population we have 29.1 suicides. The average of the other developed countries is 12.1 persons. however, with the elderly it is  80.3 persons. Korea is the only country where we see this discrepancy.

The reason for suicide for those over 65 years of age: health 32.6 percent, financial problems 30.8 percent,  alienation from spouse, children and friends 15.6  percent, loneliness 10.2 percent. Numbers of those who feel there is no place to go for help  are twice that of the other countries. 

The Government did begin programs to help but the article does not think they are much help. Efforts are needed to  understand the culture, the problems of the aged and the different structures  in society before working on the programs. These efforts have been weak.

In comparison to Japan, Sweden and France  the suicide rate for those over 65 is three times that of these countries. Poverty of the elderly in Korea would be the  greatest among the countries of  OECD.  One professor said that the poorer, the sicker and the lonelier  the elderly are, the closer they come to the possibility of suicide. Suicides in  the farming area  compared to the city are much higher: 45.3 percent to 14.1 percent.

The Church's efforts have not been strong in this area except for Seoul and a few dioceses. The many different segments of society are beginning to take an interest and working to set up  networks of support,  but work with the most vulnerable in our society is difficult. The elderly who are living alone are the ones  with whom we have to be connected.

When we hear of the death of a Catholic by suicide it is a great blow to the parish and the community of believers. God is the one who has given us life, we live to give him thanks and  glory, to do his will  and to live so that we will be with him for all eternity. My life does not belong to me. Seeing it with these eyes suicides are going against the love that we should have for ourselves and the love for others. Efforts have to be made to have our communities show concern for those who are most vulnerable and also to help make the society in which we live less concerned for material development at the expense of the more noble qualities of the inner life. The society we have made has driven many to this extreme solution to their problems,  and we need the wisdom to work for a society that killing oneself would not be seen as a possibility. Which puts the burden on all of us.

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