Suicide is the second most common cause of death among teenagers, the Department of Health said yesterday at a campaign activity to raise public awareness of the issue.
At the activity in Taipei’s Ximen Pedestrian Area, the Taiwan Suicide Prevention Center (TSPC) joined forces with the Sun-yang Social Welfare Foundation and Taipei’s health bureau to raise awareness of the warning signs and how to prevent teen suicides.
The department founded the center three years ago to combat suicide, which had been the ninth most common cause of death in Taiwan for 10 years, TSPC director Lee Ming-been (李明濱) said.
“Compared with the overall suicide rate, which dropped by about 10.7 percent from 2006 to 2007, the suicide rate in the 15 to 24-year age bracket increased by 2.9 percent, showing that attention must be paid to the mental health of this age group,” he said.
Lee, a psychiatry professor at the National Taiwan University College of Medicine as well as a practicing psychiatrist, said that teen suicide should be of particular concern as the nation’s birth rate is dropping.
“Every month, the TSPC receives about 400 suicide attempt calls for teens, 50 percent of which are related to relationship problems, while around 30 percent are due to psychological problems,” Lee said.
Stress experienced by teens can be particularly intense during the months of June and July, Lee said.
Many students graduate around this time and face the challenge of finding employment, which can be daunting and stressful.
“The center has three strategies to reduce the nation’s suicide rate: While those who have attempted suicide are cared for, the center also reaches out to those with anxiety, depression or substance abuse problems, and holds activities like today’s to promote mental health awareness,” he said.
The center also promotes stress management and seeks to spread information through the media, Lee said.
It has also distributed an emotional evaluation scale to primary care physicians, encouraging them to be the “gatekeepers” watching for people in need of help with emotional and psychological problems.
For those with loved ones who may be at risk, Lee said “the APR model should be utilized — ‘A’ for asking, to show that you care, and listen actively; ‘P’ for persuasion by responding appropriately and offering company; and ‘R’ for referring, meaning seeking professional resources and help if needed.”