Self-Harm on the Rise Among Korean Teens

  • By Son Ho-young

    July 27, 2019 08:31

    Self-harm is on the rise among Korean teenagers, suggesting that stress levels are rising in the country's brutally competitive education environment.

    The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family analyzed records from 230 youth counselling and welfare centers across the country and found that counseling for self-harm rose from 4,000 in 2015 to 28,000 last year.

    The total number of counseling cases rose from 5.3 million in 2016 to 5.7 million in 2017, but the increase in self-harm was much steeper.

    Staff at the centers conducted in-depth interview with eight people between 18 and 24 who overcame self-harming behavior through counseling and found that they suffered from "severe stress and pressure" and felt that they "could not cry even if they wanted to." 

    In many cases teens buried depression, anxiety and guilt about their academic performance and conflicts with family and friends until they could not take it any more and decided to punish themselves or let others know about their suffering.

    But they were not necessarily suicidal. "We need to be aware that teens who self-harm actually want to live," one staffer said. "Parents who find out about their children's self-harm behavior should not scold them or criticize them. Instead, listen closely to why they self-harmed and seek professional help."

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