The suicide note left by a debt-ridden taxi driver named Liu Chin-yi who committed suicide by jumping in a river last year read, “Every day I’m the first out the door and the last home, and I still have to constantly borrow money to keep my family afloat.” President Ma Ying-jeou, however, still insists that “Workers leading poor lives is simply an illusion.” According to statistics from the Taipei City Government Suicide Prevention Center, more than 1,600 attempted suicides have occurred in Taipei over the past three years for work or financial reasons.
Data on the subject shows that 50 to 60 percent — the majority — of attempted suicides over the past three years in Taipei were due to “emotions or personal relationships.” The second major cause of attempted suicide is “mental health or substance abuse,” which made up about 40 percent. In 2011 and 2012, both causes showed a decrease, while the third major cause — “work or financial” — stayed at 15 percent and showed no sign of decline.
Billy Pan, a psychiatrist at Wan Fang Hospital, says that in recent years he has seen an obvious increase in the number of patients coming in due to unemployment or financial stress. Money is definitely a major source of stress in our lives, says Pan, adding that most of his patients are males between the ages of 20 and 40. Compared to women, men typically use more intense methods for committing suicide, usually ending their lives during the first attempt, so family members need to be more vigilant, Pan says.
Pan says that he has heard a lot of complaints recently from patients who had relied on government subsidy programs to cover medical costs. Once having relied on the low-income subsidies to survive, they were disqualified by the government because a family member is making money, such as an older brother getting his pension or a younger brother finding a job. It is possible, however, that these people have been out of contact with such family members for a long time and now are complete strangers to each other, Pan says, adding that civil servants who simply look at data in a file instead of the real situation can exacerbate a person’s mental illness, make depression worse, or can even cause a person to think about taking their own life.
Suicide Prevention Center director Chuang Tung-hsien says that you must find a friend, family member, or psychotherapist to talk to about your problems if you start having negative, suicidal thoughts. It offers a way to get your emotions out, Chuang says, adding that if a family member discovers anything out of the ordinary, they should be forthright in finding out what is wrong and how strong the desire to commit suicide is before gently counseling them in order to hopefully change their mind.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)