“On a worldwide basis, about one million people kill themselves each year, which is the equivalent of one person every 40 seconds.” (James & Gilliland, 2013) This growing epidemic is defined by The American Psychological Association (2015) as the act of killing yourself, most often as a result of depression or mental illness. As Cain (2014) reports, suicide in South Korea has developed at lightning speed and is considered to be the fourth leading cause of death. In the United States, suicide accounts for about two percent of all deaths, and is considered to be the tenth leading cause of death in America. This paper will compare the suicide rates, factors leading to suicide, and the treatment options available in the countries of South Korea and The United States of America.
Over recent years, the number of suicides in South Korea have increased significantly. In a recent article, published by the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry reports an increase in South Korea between 2000 and 2009 from 4.2 to 6.9 per 100,000 adolescent males, and from 3.3 to 6.2 per 100,000 adolescent females, whereas the United States showed no change from 2000 through 2008 and remained steady at 7.6 per 100,000 adolescent males and 6.7 per adolescent females. (Park, Cho, Kim, Kim, Yoo, & Hong, 2013) The methods of choice for suicide also vary between the two countries. Jumping is the most common method for suicide in South Korea by both adolescent males and females. Adolescents in the United States choose more lethal forms of suicide, such as firearms a chosen method by adolescent males and hanging a popular method among adolescent females. Officials in South Korea believe the media is a strong influence, inspiring adolescents to “copycat” suicide methods that are seen in movies and reported on news television. In the United States, politicians are blaming gun laws and state that guns are too easily accessed by teens, contributing to plans conjured to end one’s life and a sea of problems.
The reasons for suicide can be complex. Policing agencies and mental health professionals continue to follow the patterns of teens in both countries in an effort to understand why young people are tragically taking their own lives. There is not one single cause for suicide, but there can be a plethora of reasons such as: the pressure to excel, bullying, family problems, and financial difficulty; as shared by teens that have considered suicide or have successfully carried out the act and left notes for survivors. Students studying in South Korea are pressured to excel academically and reflect perfect grades. The expectations forced on young people in this country can smother and suffocate them, extracting the joy out of their individual lives. (Voices of Youth, 2011) Bullying is also a problem that leads South Korean students to suicide. In a world where perfection is expected on a daily basis and failure is shunned upon there is a high level of competition among the students. When an individual does not meet the expectations he/she becomes a victim of bullying. School violence occurs in areas in which security cameras cannot be placed, such as restrooms, and blind spots in the classrooms and often goes unreported until it is too late. Suicide among teens in America is caused by several factors. Depression is the leading cause of suicide in young people in the United States, affecting nearly eight million teens in North America. Being a teen in today’s world can be confusing and often difficult to make decisions or cope with insecurities. Everyday problems and pressures can become overwhelming and stressful. Teens that lack coping skills can become desperate and take their own life. Lesbian and homosexuality is another contributing factor to teen suicide in the United States. American teens who choice to be lesbian, gay, or transgender are often bullied and rejected. As if being a teen wasn’t confusing enough, the rejection isolates the individual and leads to suicide.
Treatment options in South Korea are very limited. The Korean culture discourages people from seeking help for psychological issues. The country places emphasis on correcting issues within the community and mental health facilities focus on treating patients with a mental illness. Public school officials are in the process of designing an anti-bullying campaign that will be implemented in the near future. The United States focuses on managing and treating teens that are considered high risk. Case management has been effective in reducing emergency room visits, whereas treatment has proven to be more effective long term. Teens may also undergo therapy to work through the underlying issues. Individual therapy focuses on the teen and allows the individual to work through feelings and emotions that have led them to believe suicide is the only answer to end their emotional pain. Family therapy is another option that is commonly used and allows the family to actively support the teen, as they learn how to cope with the problem together. In extreme cases the teen is hospitalized and monitored in a secure facility to ensure safety. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009)
Suicide affects millions of teens every year, worldwide. This epidemic is extremely complex and several factors can lead an adolescent to take their own life. Treatment is highly effective and provides teens with the help and coping strategies that prevent re attempts. South Korea, is a struggling country and is in the process of establishing facilities that are equipped to help patients that do not suffer from mental illness. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and can be prevented by educating our young people and providing them with the support they need to work through the problem.
James, R. & Gilliland, K. (2013). Crisis Intervention Strategies (7th ed). Cengage Learning Inc. Obtained from https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781285404714/pages/56707132
American Psychological Association (2015). Suicide Retrieved July 19, 2015, from http://www.apa.org/topics/suicide/index.aspx
Cain, G. (2014, March 15). Why South Koreans are killing themselves in droves. Retrieved July 18, 2015, from http://www.salon.com/2014/03/15/why_is_suicide_so_popular_in_south_korea_partner/
Park, S., Cho, S., Kim, B., Kim, J., Yoo, H. J., & Hong, J. P. (2014). Increased use of lethal methods and annual increase of suicide rates in Korean adolescents: comparison with adolescents in the United States. Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry, And Allied Disciplines, 55(3), 258-263. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12148
Student Suicides in South Korea. (2011). Retrieved July 21, 2015, from http://www.voicesofyouth.org/posts/student-suicides-in-south-korea