While the rate of deaths by suicide in Taiwan has been falling each year, the number of suicide attempts among children, teens and young adults is rising, with 7,038 cases reported last year, the Taiwanese Society of Suicidology said yesterday.
Yesterday, the group and its Taiwan Suicide Prevention Center, which is commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, held a news conference in Taipei, as they do every year two days before World Suicide Prevention Day to raise awareness of suicide prevention.
About 800,000 people worldwide die of suicide each year and more than 100 million people are affected by suicide events, group chairman Lee Ming-been (李明濱) said, citing WHO statistics.
Suicide deaths in Taiwan have declined yearly from 4,406 people in 2006 — about 19.3 people per 100,000 — to 3,865 people last year, he said, adding that suicide ceased to be one of the top 10 causes of death in 2015.
However, the number of suicide deaths among Taiwanese aged 14 or younger last year increased by six people and the number among Taiwanese aged 15 to 24 rose by 17, Lee said.
Last year, there were 7,038 reports of attempted suicide among people aged 24 or younger, an increase of 36 percent from the 5,176 reports in 2017, he added.
A survey by the center showed that the number of people saying that they suffer from emotional distress increased from 6.4 percent of the population in 2017 to 8.3 percent last year, with 15.6 percent of people aged 15 or older saying that they have had suicidal thoughts sometime during their lives and 2.7 percent having had thoughts at least once in the past year.
This year’s survey focused on bullying and found that 15.3 percent of people aged 15 or older said they have been bullied during some period of their lives, Lee said.
Of those who experienced bullying, 54.3 percent were bullied between age 10 and age 14, 71.3 were bullied at school, 81 percent experienced verbal bullying and 50.8 percent were harmed physically or mentally by the bullying, Lee said.
Children and young people can be bullied on the Internet, and studies suggest that the intent to commit suicide increases in people who have been bullied online, Kaohsiung Medical University psychiatry professor Yen Cheng-fang (顏正芳) said.
Multiple risk factors contribute to suicides, and an analysis of suicides among teenagers showed that distress in relationships — parent-child, peer or intimate — was a common reason, although Internet use has become a greater factor in the past few years, ministry official Chen Li-chung (諶立中) said.
The onset of depression or bipolar disorder often occurs at a young age, so some teenagers have suicidal thoughts due to mental illness, he said, adding that this factor is frequently neglected by parents and teachers.
Everyone can serve as a “goalkeeper” in suicide prevention by asking after and caring for those who seem to be in need of help, responding to them and showing support, and referring them to professional counseling or medical assistance, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said.
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