The Korean government said Tuesday it would pursue aggressive measures to lower the number of suicides in the next five years and shed its infamous reputation for ranking first among OECD countries regarding suicide incidence.
“This plan recognizes that suicide is not an individual problem but a social one that can be resolved at the national level,” Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
|The government sets its eyes on decreasing the number of people committing suicide, as the nation ranks at the top of OECD countries in the suicide rate for the 13th consecutive year.|
According to OECD statistics, nearly 26 out of 100,000 Koreans committed suicide in 2016, two times higher than the OECD average. The new measures aim to bring the number down to 17 deaths per 100,000 by 2022.
Data showed that more than 90 percent of those who took their own lives sent distress signals before their deaths. The ministry said that Korea could reduce suicide incidence by paying attention and providing proper care. To this end, the ministry will carry out 54 projects in six categories.
The measures will include training 1 million people to be “suicide gatekeepers” by quickly detecting symptoms of depression in those around them and referring them to appropriate professionals. The training will be mandatory for those working in local and central government positions starting this year, the ministry said.
The government will also provide depression tests for Koreans aged 40 to 70 years old as part of national health checkups free of charge as well as to those over 40 years of age who meet specific criteria.
The government also said it would create a response manual to deal with celebrities who commit suicide to minimize copycat suicides, known as the “Werther effect.” Experts pointed to the phenomenon most recently after SHINee star Jong-hyun committed suicide in December.
The ministry will also establish a full-fledged department to manage and execute the national action plan for suicide prevention, it said.
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