Although the incidence of suicide has decreased in recent years — dropping to No. 11 among the leading causes of death in Taiwan — officials and the medical community are worried because suicide has became the second-biggest cause of death last year of people between the ages of 15 to 24.
Executives at the Taiwan Suicide Prevention Center said the high incidence of suicide among young people is mainly due to problems in dealing with romantic relationships and academic stress, adding that bullying at school can result in victims feeling trapped in a vicious cycle of abuse, thus becoming part of the suicide high-risk group.
According to recent official statistics, suicide has dropped off from the top 10 list of leading causes of death through the past four years. The rate has been in decline for most age groups.
There were about 3,500 deaths by suicide last year, down 200 from 2012.
Suicide among men is at twice the rate of women in Taiwan.
The youngest suicide occurred in a 12-year-old last year, with four suicides overall for people under the age of 14, according to government data.
Among young people aged between 14 and 25, there were 166 suicides last year.
For the 65-or-over age group, the leading cause of suicidal tendencies was suffering a chronic illness, at about 40 percent.
For the 24-and-under age group, the main causes were problems in dealing with love or interpersonal relationship, at more than 60 percent.
This was followed by problems at school, mental health troubles and drug abuse at about 20 percent.
Chang China-ming (張家銘), the center’s director and professor of psychiatry at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, said he has treated several cases of school bullying after student victims sought help at his hospital.
“Bullying has a big impact on their mental well-being, making them less eager to socialize. The victim is withdrawn from society, staying at home more, and tends to have negative thoughts,” Chang said.
He said some people became part of the high-risk group when they felt their achievements were below par, they were perfectionists, had flawed social skills, were unable to control their emotions, had low self-esteem and lacked support from school and family members.
Chang said that these days most families do not eat dinner together, and even when they do, most people are busy playing with their smartphones.
“Many parents don’t even know their children have suicidal tendencies. When children have declining academic performance, take frequent sick leave, have symptoms of self-mutilation or verbally express negative thoughts, all these are warning signs,” he said.
Chang said some parents became aware of their children’s suicidal thoughts only after seeing their posted messages on Facebook and other social networking sites.
Liu Chung-cheng (劉仲成), head of the Ministry of Education’s Special Education Department, said his ministry has set up mechanisms for reporting school bullying.
“There were 205 confirmed cases of school bullying last year, a reduction of 88 cases from 2012,” he said.
He urged victims of school bullying not to contemplate suicide.
“They should actively seek support and help. Victims of bullying should speak out with courage, so that their case can be handled properly. All schools have letterbox and e-mail addresses to report bullying problems. Our ministry has a hotline for reporting school bullying on 0800-200-885,” he said.
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