Tue, Sep 30, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Suicide among young on the rise

LOVING LIFE, KNOWING DEATH Parents are advised to teach their children the value of living and the meaning of death, especially if they are exhibiting suicidal tendencies

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Professor of Clinical Psychology at National Taiwan University (NTU) Wu Yin-chang (吳英璋) announced yesterday that Taiwan's suicide rate was on the rise, especially for people between the ages of 20 and 34.

According to the Department of Health's records, in Taiwan, successful suicide attempts committed by people between the ages of 20 and 34 has risen from 22 suicides per hundred thousand in 1994 to 37 last year.

Wu also expressed that it has long been understood that students entering the eighth grade are especially likely to develop suicidal tendencies. However, Wu indicated that his research shows that in recent years, students entering the fifth grade are also a high risk group.

He attributed the recent increase of suicide attempts in younger students to early maturation and ideas presented by the media that cause confusion.

Wu commented that increased suicide rates is a worldwide phenomenon. He cited globalization trends, population pressure and the decrease of the family's function in society as possible reasons for the global increase in suicide.

"As quickly as the world is changing, Taiwan's pace may be even faster than other nations," Wu said.

Wu also pointed to an increased amount of time spent online each day, saying "Human relationships seem to be thinner these days."

Wu predicted that as suicide rates increase in the 20 to 34 age group, suicide rates among younger individuals may also begin to increase in a domino effect. He emphasized that it is vital that preventive measures focusing on those under 20 be taken now, pointing out that suicide prevention is easier with younger children.

Wu further stressed that for people under the age of 20, parents and teachers are the primary figures in prevention. He set forth a chart that divides the behavior of children into three categories depending on the likelihood of a suicide attempt.

The three most important questions to ask are whether suicide plans have been made, whether suicide has ever been attempted, and whether there have been major changes in one's daily routine.

Students in the low risk category have no suicide plans, have never attempted suicide, and have relative stability in their lives. Wu urged parents and teachers who noticed the warning signs of depression in their children to express their concern and communicate an appropriate understanding of the value of life and the meaning of death.

The moderate risk category includes students who have considered suicide, have previously attempted suicide or have begun to abuse drugs or have demonstrated other types of masochistic behavior. Wu stated that parents and teachers should seek the help of a school guidance counselor or therapist.

Those who have concrete suicide plans, have seriously attempted suicide in the past or have consistently exhibit self-destructive behavior are in Wu's high risk category. He suggested that parents and teachers seek a psychologist or psychiatrist immediately.

He will compile a suicide prevention handbook to distribute throughout Taiwan's schools. Wu gave his presentation as part of a lecture series organized by NTU to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

Suicide moved up into the ranks of the 10 top causes of death in Taiwan in 1997. Sociologists attribute the rise to job pressure, recession and lack of support systems. There was a spike in the suicide rate following the 921 earthquake.

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