Wed, Jul 09, 2003 - Page 2 News List

DOH moves to stem rising suicides after adolescent tragedy

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following the release of disturbing figures pointing to a sharp rise in teenage suicides during summer break, young people feeling depressed are being encouraged to make use of the public health safety net, officials at the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

In Ilan County on Monday, four youths aged between 12 and 17 drank cola mixed with insecticide, killing two of the youngsters. The police believe they committed suicide together because of problems in their love lives.

According to the police, red string was tied around their wrists. A wide-spread anecdote says that red string allows people who commit suicide because of frustrated relationships to find each other in the next life.

In a bid to prevent more suicides, the DOH yesterday established a new suicide prevention hot line, 02-3393-0885.

Officials said that existing suicide prevention measures will be further strengthened adding that toll-free numbers providing consultation services in all jurisdictions and a hot line, 0800-95618, are automatically connected to social workers and major hospitals specializing in mental health.

According to the DOH, the new hot lines bring free telephone counseling and support to people most at risk of suicide, including adolescents, career people and the elderly.

According to the DOH, 3,053 people committed suicide last year and 7.27 percent were by people under the age of 24.

DOH officials said that most suicide victims suffer from mental problems. Actively treating mental disease is a top priority for suicide-prevention agencies.

Tan Kai-yuan (譚開元), director-general of the department's Bureau of Medical Affairs, stressed that suicide was preventable as long as warning signs were taken seriously.

"Becoming emotionally unstable, being emotionless, changing the way of life and talking about suicide are signs we need to pay attention to," Tan said at a press conference yesterday.

The new hot line program offers information on suicide, common statistics and symptoms of depression.

It also assists people under stress to relax themselves, introduces healthcare services on mental health and supports mental rehabilitation in the post-SARS era.

The DOH yesterday released three suicide prevention public service ads, which target groups at suicide risk.

Tan said talking about stress and problems was not shameful, urging people feeling suicidal to use any of abundant social resources pertaining to suicide prevention.

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