Photo: Suicide prevention poster by the city of Seoul says "Live, just keep living." Credit: Website of the Seoul Metropolian City Hall.
In order to shed its unfortunate status as one of the world leaders in suicides per capita, South Korea has dedicated significant resources to an early monitoring system for people at the risk of suicide. Now, this monitoring system is detecting a worrying trend caused by the mental health burden of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Kookmin Ilbo 국민일보 article published September 9 took a deep dive on the warning signals for suicide in light of the psychological toll caused by social distancing measures. While the overall suicide rate in the first half of 2020 remained similar to last year’s, there was a 7.1% increase in the suicide rate for women, who are more exposed to the socioeconomic toll of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the number of attempted suicides is on the upswing, particularly among young women in their 20s. The number of phone calls made to the suicide prevention hotline run by the Ministry of Health and Welfare 보건복지부 in August 2020 nearly tripled compared to August 2019, reflecting the psychological burden caused by the pandemic and responses to it.