Poll Shows Half of Korean Teenagers Have Suicidal Thoughts
A recent survey shows that just over half of South Korean teenagers have had suicidal thoughts this year, while nearly one in three said they had felt very depressed.
Over 40% of the survey respondents in the Feb. 20-27 poll by the Korea Health Promotion Foundation, an affiliate of the finance ministry, said that school pressure and future uncertainty concerned them the most. More than 17% in the survey of 1,000 Koreans aged 14 to 19 said that they were mainly stressed over their looks, and 16% by family troubles.
South Korea's problems with suicide are often attributed to lifelong pressure to compete for better schools, better jobs, better physical appearance and even better marriages. What's alarming is that while overall suicide rates in developed countries are falling, the suicide rate for people aged 15-24 in Korea rose to 13 deaths per 100,000 people in 2011, up from 7.7 in 2001, according to the latest Statistics Korea data.
Experts say South Korean teens often lack access to professional help or are reluctant to seek it out. One in four of the recent survey respondents said they have no-one to talk to when they're going through hard times. Almost half said they turn to friends instead of teachers, counselors or parents.
Kim Eun-young, a counselor who has researched and worked with suicidal teenagers since 2007 at the Korea Youth Counseling & Welfare Institute, says young people are more open talking about their suicidal thoughts than before. But because teenagers tend to use vague expressions such as 'what if I disappear one day?' or 'I feel like not waking up in the morning,' parents or friends often overlook the underlying problems by saying 'it's nothing' or 'toughen up.'
'We have social institutions and counselors at school to help teenagers with stress, but what we need is a mindset in which they utilize those resources just like they would go to a pharmacy or hospital when they get cold,' said Mo Sang-hyun, a research fellow at the National Youth Policy Institute in Seoul.
韩国企划财政部下属的健康促进基金会(Korea Health Promotion Foundation)于2月20-27日进行的这项调查中，超过40%的受访者表示，学业压力和未来的不确定性最令他们担心。在接受调查的1,000名14-19岁韩国青少年中，超过17%的受访者表示主要为自己的相貌感受到压力，16%的受访者表示压力主要来自家庭问题。
韩国青年咨询及福利研究院(Korea Youth Counseling & Welfare Institute)的咨询师Kim Eun-young自2007年以来一直研究并接触自杀青少年。Kim说，与过去相比，青年人现在更加坦率地谈论自杀想法。但由于青少年总会使用诸如“如果有一天我从世界上消失了会怎么样”以及“我不想清晨再醒过来”等模糊的表达方式，父母和朋友经常会忽视潜在的问题，只是说“这没什么”或“坚强起来”。
位于首尔的国家青年政策研究所(National Youth Policy Institute)的研究人员Mo Sang-hyun说：我们有社会机构以及学校的咨询师来帮助青少年应对压力，但我们需要青少年拥有一种观念，能够想到利用这些资源，就像他们在感冒时去药店或医院一样。