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Korean religious groups to support suicide victims’ kin

South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates among 38 developed nations, govt data shows
Civic and religious groups, including the Catholic Church, have joined together for a project to support family members of suicide victims in South Korea

Civic and religious groups, including the Catholic Church, have joined together for a project to support family members of suicide victims in South Korea. (Photo: CPBC)

Published: August 24, 2023 11:54 AM GMT

Civic and religious groups including the Catholic Church in South Korea have joined hands to launch a project seeking to offer counseling services to the bereaved family members of suicide victims.

The groups launched the “Salsa Project” as the East Asian nation continues to top the list of developed countries with the highest suicide rate, Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation (CPBC) reported on Aug. 22.

The group also held a forum themed “Caring for the bereaved family” at the Korean Buddhist History and Culture Museum in the national capital Seoul.

Professor Lee Beom-soo of the Department of Life and Death, Culture and Industry of Dongguk University’s Graduate School of Buddhism urged the religious groups to actively care for the bereaved families.

“Religion is a great help to the family of the bereaved by suicide from the stage of accepting the death of the deceased realistically,” Lee said.

The project members include the Suicide Prevention Center of the “One Mind One Body Movement” of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul and the Life and Hope Christian Suicide Prevention Center among others.

The group also includes the Counseling Development Centre of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the Round Mind Counseling Research Center of Won Buddhism, and the Seoul Suicide Prevention Center.

The social stigma associated with suicide in South Korea has prompted more than half of the families of suicide victims to refrain from mentioning that their kin’s death was due to suicide, CPBC reported.

According to CPBC, 91 percent of the family members feel depressed, placing them in a high-risk group for mental health, with 6.48 times higher suicide thoughts and 7.64 times higher suicide attempts compared to the general population.

Lee pointed out that the suppression of the fact that their kin died due to suicide to avoid social stigma results in family members’ inability to mourn them properly, thus calling for support.

“The bereaved family members who have not properly acknowledged death are unable to let go of the deceased,” Lee said.

Government data showed that in 2021 an average of 37 people took their lives per day. The nation’s suicide rate was the highest among 38 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Korea Biomedical Review reported.

According to the data, the number of suicide deaths in Korea increased 1.2 percent per year to 13,352 in 2021.

Father Chabauna, director of the Seoul Archdiocesan suicide prevention center pointed out that the various suicide prevention activities provided for the families have helped them express their grief and experience “healthy mourning.”

“People who participated in self-help groups for bereaved families often say that ‘with counseling and treatment, the lacking part has finally been filled’” Chabauna said.

The priest emphasized that “the most appropriate thing for the religious world to do is caring for people's hearts and preventing suicide.”

The Seoul Archdiocesan suicide prevention center offers a Mass for the bereaved family at 10:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month at the Catholic Center and prays the rosary.

The center also arranges monthly self-help meetings for around 50 participants.

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