Monday, November 10, 2008

Ask a Korean! News: Depressing News about Depression

Actress Choi Jinsil's death highlighted, among other things, the inadequacy of Korean approach for mental illness, particularly depression. On that theme, Dong-A Ilbo reports that nearly 80 percent of depression patients in Korea stop taking anti-depressants within three months without consulting their doctors. Amazingly, 53 percent of the patients decide to stop the treatment after only one month, although anti-depressants generally require 6 months to take effect. This rate is two to three times higher than depression patients in Europe.

The article cites the prejudice against mental patients as one of the leading causes of patients' stopping the treatment. One of the examples given in the article is that of Mr. Kim, age 30, who developed depression while searching for a job. After seeing some improvement after one month of treatment, Mr. Kim stopped treatment against the doctor's advice for fear that the history of depression treatment would hinder finding a job. He returned to the doctor 6 months later, with stronger symptoms of depression.

In the last two or three years, the Korean has observed Korean society's attempt to change the public perception of depression. However, clearly more work could be done.

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  1. very true Korean! 2 of my students have told me sad stories of 1. a failed suicide attempt by his wife after post-natal depression went untreated and 2. a mother's denial of daughter's ongoing and worsening problem, due to the social taboo of depression here in Korea.
    Rather tragic.

  2. When she died the media went stir crazy covering her death. And they were quick to place the blame on malicious internet rumors. People also were in a fervor criticizing those malicious rumors. It was just so appalling that nobody was getting the fucking point! She died because she wasn't getting proper psychological treatment! Malicious internet rumors were only part of the reason she committed suicide, a much bigger part was due to lack of treatment. Korea is just a barren land when it comes to psychiatric treatment. Doctors are quick to prescribe meds or recommend hospitalization, but it's almost impossible to find one who will do continuous counseling. And also people's attitude towards those who are getting treatment are still too negative. The problem also lies in people who need treatment, some accuse concerned family members who advise treatment of trying to turn them into a 정신병자(crazy person). The public is also too uninformed about the seriousness of depression, they think it's something you can just get over or that having drinks with friends is a cure.

    In 2007 244,874 people took their own lives in Korea, that would make an average of 33 suicides per day. The top cause of death amongst people in their twenties and thirties is suicide. Despite the seriousness of this problem the government is still not paying attention. They're too busy trying to repair the economy or beautify Korea. I wonder how many more people have to commit suicide before the government gets off their fat butts and do something about it.

  3. 244,874 can't be right can it? The below WHO report shows 10,688 total suicides in 2006 for Korea.

    Worth noting is that men off themselves at twice the rate of women.

  4. I am feeling so stupid right now. I got the numbers mixed up. Last year 12,174 people committed suicide. 244,874 is the total number of deaths. That still makes an average of 33 suicides per day.

    I have officially placed a big dumbass sticker on my forehead. I shall wear it proudly all day.

  5. I'm glad you brought this up. Depression and suicide rates are ridiculously high among young Asian women but there are not enough studies or articles about this. In Korean culture, being depressed is as shameful as being unable to bear children. So, having to deal with depression itself adds to the depression, thus bringing about a vicious cycle that leads to drastic measures.

    I like how the media brings attention to celebrity suicides like it's a problem that's just within the industry. WAKE UP SHEEPLE! It's happening all around you, especially to your very children who would rather die than bring home a bad exam grade.

    I agree with jewook that more actions need to be taken to raise awareness. Depression has become so common that we can't keep it swept under the rug. People should be encouraged to seek help and not be ashamed for trying to be healthier.

  6. A student is currently suing my school because she was punished for refusing to stop her college entrance exam after time was called. There is currently an ongoing investigation/dispute about this, and I've been told by my coworkers that the reason she's suing is that if she accepts the conclusions that she was cheating, as it were, she would also be barred from taking the exam in the future, thereby ending her life. I hope this doesn't become a suicide, but I hate to think what my own life would have been like if my SATs were so literally a matter of life or death. And this is a student with a stellar reputation, hence the pressure, I suppose.


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