A religious sister in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times begins with the news of a middle aged comedian's suicide. He was in his 50s, suffering from depression over money matters. The death shocked many because of his popularity and his recent appearance in a TV drama. The sister is in charge of a diocesan desk which works in the prevention of suicides in the diocese. She prayed that this suicide would not lead to imitations.
The suicide rate among middle-aged men continues to increase yearly. More than 70% of all suicides are male and half are men between the ages of 40 and 65.
Most of the suicides are related to work: failing in their work, losing their job or not properly assessed in the workplace. Depression and thoughts of suicide enter. Men, even at the sacrifice of family, often give themselves to their jobs to such an extent that when things goes wrong, despair, great shock, and suicide is the result.
Men in our society are judged by their work and consequently, the responsibility they feel is great. Unlike women, they are not able to express in words the pressures and frustrations they face. This means they carry it with them, it isolates them, despair follows and the last escape is death at their own hand.
Even though this is the case, in Korea, in the mass media and in our approach to the problem, we continue to concentrate on the youth and the elderly. Problems with the middle age men are not seen as important. Considering the current social situation with the lack of employment opportunities and economic slowdown, the problems will increase.
What can we do? What can the church do? We need to be more attentive to this group of men and understand the difficulties they face. Family and acquaintances need to show concern and sympathize with them. In her counseling, she hears often how responsibility they have for the family and their abilities make for conflict and trials. She has much sympathy for them living in our present society.
The nation has to become involved and a national response is necessary. Money, both public and private needs to be set aside for suicide prevention and to establish a safety net. We need to help the men to express themselves and find ways to lighten their burdens. "I am tired. it's difficult, I want to rest, I am lonely," we need to help them say what is inside. All of us need to show concern.
We need to get out of the functional mode which society puts us in at an early age and begin to see life from a contemplative and being mode. Show gratitude for what people have done, instead of saying "fight the good fight" better to say, "you have done much, thank you". Need to remember that life is more precious than what we do.