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Suicide In Korea

Yesterday evening while walking around, Lime and I passed a TV that was showing news of yet another celebrity suicide, not this one but apparently another, a singer. She mentioned that the singer’s suicide really surprised her, more than the movie-actor’s girlfriend and the actress’. I asked her, “Why did she do it?” and she told me that it was apparently depression, and that this was the apparent cause of the other suicides that have been happening lately.

“Huh, but why were they depressed?” I asked.

She turned and said one of those one-liners that was halfway a joke, but half-way serious: “This is Korea. Everyone’s depressed.”

It’s not exactly true, but I did have a discomfiting experience on the subway when a very nice fellow struck up a conversation with me that finally led to him asking me whether I could help him get citizenship in Canada. Isn’t that the kind of thing one hears about in, oh, Viet Nam or Burma or something?

Anyway, there has been a rash of celebrity suicides in Korea, and I don’t know why. It’d be nice, though, if this spurred a public awareness campaign that might convince people to seriously consider professional psychiatric help if they’re depressed? I know, I know, any accusation of mental illness here is tantamount to a mama-joke, and mama-jokes don’t fly over here, and I don’t think that Korea needs to follow America’s lead on psychoactive medications for every complaint… but it’d be nice if lessening the stigma about mental health problems saved some lives. After all, Korea has been a world leader in terms of its rate of increase in suicide for years now, and finally beat out Japan, Hungary, and even dark and chilly (ie. S.A.D.-inducing) Finland for the top suicide rate of all OECD nations in 2005, at a rate more than double what it was a little over a decade ago.

For the record, while I doubt that there’s anything to the idea that it has anything to do with the ostensible Ural-Altaic language family (which Marmot didn’t really seem to pose seriously at all), it may well be that that those cultures also happen to have (a) gone through a lot of social transition lately, and (b) not be very open to psychiatric help. Since I know very little about Finand and Hungary, I really do wonder what Antti would say.

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