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Teen suicide prevention budget cut despite rise in incidents: data

Over 100 teenagers kill themselves every year in South Korea, but the funding for state-run and provincial suicide prevention programs was cut at least 35 percent from 2016, according to a lawmaker.

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Rep. Cho Hun-hyun of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party cited the Ministry of Education’s data for a parliamentary audit, which showed that the ministry’s budget for the country’s School Mental Health Resources and Research Center declined 538 million won to 1 billion won ($883,000) this year from the previous year.

The state-run organization provides programs for students designed to promote wellness and address mental health issues to curb the suicide rate.

The budget for another suicide prevention program of the ministry that helps students overcome post-traumatic stress disorder was cut by half from 2016 to 180 million won this year, the data revealed.

Although the School Health Act states that local education offices should allocate a medical expenses budget for students for medical examination and treatment, the budget gap also differs as much as tenfold, depending on cities and provinces.

South Korea has marked the highest annual suicide rate among member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development since 2003.

Last year, the suicide rate stood at 25.6 per 100,000 people.

The rate of teen suicides, in particular, rose 16 percent to 108 from last year’s 93. In 2013, 123 teenagers killed themselves, while 118 and 93 did so in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

“More attention is needed from the government and communities to reduce the suicide rate, as it remains the highest among OECD countries,” Rep. Cho said.

“Schools, education offices and the ministry should all work together so we effectively prevent suicides occurring,” Cho added.

By Bak Se-hwan (sh@heraldcorp.com)
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