It was during my preparation for a hot topics class, that I came across this insightful article in the Washington Post, In Prosperous South Korea, a troubling increase in suicide rate (17 April 2010) (pdf)
Korea feels stressful to me. And my students are always saying that it is.
But, reading this article brought it home to me and made it real. Too real.
The main findings stunned me:
- Suicide is the leading cause of death among South Koreans in their 20s and 30s.
- The suicide rate has doubled in the past decade and is now the highest in the industrialized world.
- The suicide rate has tripled in the past two decades and is now 2.5 times that of the US.
And a bit of an excerpt to try to explain…
Before South Korea got rich, wired and worried, its suicide rate was among the lowest in the industrialized world. But modernity has spawned inordinate levels of stress. People here work more, sleep less and spend more money per capita on cram schools than residents of the 29 other industrialized countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Still, it remains a taboo here to admit to feeling overwhelmed by stress. The word “psychiatry” has such a negative connotation that many leading hospitals have created departments of “neuro-psychiatry,” in the hope that people perceive care as medical treatment and not as a public admission of character failure.