The thing that hit me hard – harder than anything else – after I became Seoul Mayor was that six people committed suicides within a period of 100 days in a rental apartment in Gangbuk. Upon hearing the report, I rushed to the apartment and tried to find out the cause that made them turn to such a drastic decision, staying there for three days. I found that lack of attention was one of the causes.
To improve such a situation, I started programs intended to support the mental health of the people down on their luck through attention and compassion. First, I adopted measures to improve the situation of the dwellers in rental apartments. Then, I started the Mind-Linking 1080 Project designed to prevent suicides. Mapodaegyo (Bridge), where many people jumped into the river, was rearranged to turn it into a bridge of dialogues and mind healing.
Other relevant programs adopted by Seoul include: training of counselors, installation of suicide prevention lifeline phone (1577-0199), a crisis management team to care for those attempting suicide, and a team providing support for bereaved family of suicide. In 2011, we enacted the Municipal Ordinance for Suicide Prevention. In 2012, we adopted a locally friendly suicide prevention program to be carried out by autonomous district offices.
In April this year, we adopted the Mind-Linking 1080 Project in hopes to drastically reduce the number of suicides. Under the project, 70-plus places where people are likely to commit suicides were designated for intensive management.
It turns out that the rate of suicide in Seoul showed a decrease for the first time in six years and the lowest percentage across the country, perhaps as a result of such efforts.
According to the report of Statistics Korea, the rate of suicide in Seoul had continued to increase between 2006 and 2012 (23.8 people out of 100,000) and showed a decrease for the first time in six years in 2012 (a 11.5% y-o-y decrease) and the lowest rate among the 17 metropolises and provinces.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will continue to carry out suicide prevention programs in collaboration with mental health centers in autonomous district and relevant institutions (such as offices of education, schools, local resident organizations, the police, the fire department, hospitals, etc).
We are also planning to start a pilot program for suicide prevention on the part of senior citizens living alone in Nowon-gu, Seongbuk-gu, and Dongdaemun-gu, using Social Impact Bond, in collaboration with local resident organizations. We are also preparing to launch a mental health counseling service for ordinary citizens.
In Seoul, we will strive to protect people’s lives and make Seoul a city where everyone can live happily. Please join in the effort.