Every three days in S. Korea, a student commits suicide

Posted on : 2014-09-29 16:37 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Recently released data show more high school students taking their own lives, most commonly citing problems at home

By Jeon Jeong-yoon, staff reporter

An average of one elementary, middle, or high school-age student committed suicide every three days over the past five years, education office data show.

Problems at home were the most frequently cited cause, while depression, grades, and career prospects were also factors in many of the cases.

The office of Bae Jae-jeung, a New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) lawmaker and member of the National Assembly Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee, provided a report on Sept. 28 on primary and secondary school-age suicides between Jan. 2010 and Sept. 2014, based on data received from 16 of the country’s 17 metropolitan or provincial offices of education. Sejong was omitted because a lack of statistics, while data for Daejeon were only available from 2012 onward.

In total, 630 school-age children committed suicide nationwide over the period examined, or one every 2.74 days. The most commonly cited cause was “problems at home,” implicated in 35% of suicides. According to the data, 223 young people - 11 elementary school students (65%), 73 middle school students (36%), and 139 high school students (34%) - made their fatal decision because of family problems or violence.

The next largest category was “unknown causes,” cited in 126 cases, or 20%, while depression ranked third with 106 suicides representing 17% of cases. Depression was also more than twice as likely to be implicated in high school student suicides (21%) than those involving middle school students.

The fourth most cited cause was grades and career concerns, which were implicated in 73 suicides, or 12%.

Although bullying was not cited as a cause for any school-age suicides in 2010, it was implicated in eight cases between 2011 and 2014. “Considering the number of suicides with unknown causes, there could be more students who committed suicide due to bullying,” said Bae.

The number of suicides rises sharply the further along in the student’s education. High school students accounted for the most cases at 409 (65%), while middle school students accounted for another 204 (32%). A total of 17 elementary school student suicides were reported, accounting for 3%. Problems at home were implicated in 11 of those cases, while other four were attributed to unknown causes. Of the remaining two cases, one was attributed to depression and the other to impulse or the Werther effect.

Romantic relationships were also found to have a greater influence at higher grade levels. While no cases of suicides for relationship reasons were identified among elementary school students, a total of 3% of middle school and 8% of high school suicides were attributed to issues with a member of the opposite sex.

Gwangju showed the highest suicide rate by region, with 16 cases per 100,000 people, or 10% of the total. Busan and North Gyeongsang Province tied for second place with 8% each, while Jeju ranked lowest nationwide with a rate of 3%. Seoul was fifth from the bottom with 5%.

In terms of sheer numbers, a total of 144 suicides each were recorded for 2010 and 2011, followed by 143 in 2012 and 124 in 2013. As of September, the 2014 number stood at 75. While the number total has remained the same or fallen over time, Bae noted that falling student numbers, and a general population decline, suggest the rate is actually rising.

“Parents need to have more time at home to talk with their children, but we also need our schools to pay more attention to student home environments and other life issues, and to offer more thorough instruction in terms of ongoing counseling and education,” she recommended.


Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]


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