New opinion poll reveals suicide misperceptions

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Page 2

Eighty-six percent of the public feels that suicide is a serious problem in Taiwan, according to a poll released by the Suicide Prevention Center yesterday.

The survey, which polled 1,075 people aged 20 and older on their perception of suicide trends, showed that 84 percent of respondents said that suicide could be prevented.

The most common reason for suicide was economic hardship, according to the poll.

A recent Department of Health report on suicide prevention suggested that suicide rates across Asia were on the rise.

While a ratio of 18.84 in every 100,000 people in Taiwan committed suicide last year, that figure was 25.2 in South Korea, 24.2 in Japan and 18.6 in Hong Kong, according to the report.

Center Director Li Ming-pin (李明濱) told a press conference in Taipei that common misperceptions or a lack of awareness regarding the suicide problem were preventing many suicide-prone people from seeking help.

One major misperception was that suicide is a phenomenon relegated to mostly the young and middle-aged, Li said, adding that only 5.7 percent of interviewees believed that the elderly were most at risk of committing suicide.

"But, according to Department of Health statistics, the suicide rate for people over 65 is three times higher than that for young people," Li said.

The misperception that the elderly are not as at-risk as younger groups reflects a general neglect of the suicide problem in the group that is affected the most, a center press release said.

Taiwan Against Depression Association chairman Chiang Hong-chi (江弘基), who also took part in the press conference, emphasized that virtually every hospital in the country was staffed with mental health professionals specially trained to counsel depressed patients.

The center will stage a series of events between now and Oct. 10 to raise public awareness about suicide prevention.

A free concert will be held tonight in Taipei's Da-an Park from 7pm to 9pm.

Yesterday's press conference was held to coincide with the World Suicide Prevention Day, which will be observed today.

World Suicide Prevention Day was initiated by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in collaboration with the WHO and other non-governmental organizations to call attention to suicide as a leading cause of premature and preventable death.