Which country has the highest suicide rate?
Guyana. Experts believe it’s due to the extreme poverty rate, high levels of alcohol abuse and ease of access to pesticides. ¹ Additionally, Guyana has a shortage of social services, including suicide counselors.
The second? South Korea. Up to 40 people kill themselves each day in South Korea, a strong, economic country. This, experts believe, is due to their extreme competitiveness and their hyper focus on “success.” In fact, suicide is the number one killer of people ages 10 to 30 in that country.
Silicon Valley in California is experiencing an alarming uptick in teen suicides. This, apparently, for the same reasons South Korea experiences suicides: overwhelming stress and competition to succeed in school and then work. “Twelve percent of Palo Alto high-school students surveyed in the 2013–14 school year reported having seriously contemplated suicide in the past 12 months.” (The Atlantic) ²
School administrators, community stakeholders and mental health professionals are rushing to prevent suicides and “suicide clusters” (phenomenon where three or more suicides occur in close proximity for time and location (CDC)). A large part of working to prevent suicides lies in identifying the cause. Why are successful, talented teens committing suicide?
Suniya S. Luthar, Foundation Professor at Arizona State University, conducted a study of high socioeoconomic (SES) teens and low socioeconomic teens. Her findings surprised her: the high SES teens abused drugs and alcohol at a substantially higher rate. These teens also experienced very high levels of serious anxiety and depression. Why? The teens felt emotionally distant from their parents. They felt they had to achieve just as much, if not more, than their parents in academics and salary. (The Atlantic)
Social media seems to play a role in the speed with which suicides and suicide clusters appear. Students will know of a suicide on the CalTrain track within an hour of it happening and online bullying runs rampant and undetected by parents. Martyrdom of suicides is something school administrators work to avoid: students may not place memorials on school grounds.
Different cultures and countries are handling it differently. Tomorrow, a look at how South Korea is working to reduce suicides among their youth.