YHP SOUTH KOREA – safeTALK
The local context
The suicide rate in the Republic of Korea is one of the highest of any developed country. Suicide among younger people has been attributed to high levels of depression, stress and anxiety caused by the hyper competitive education system.
Mental health issues and suicide are perceived as a personal matter and a shame to the family, with a social stigma around receiving treatment. As a result at-risk adolescents tend not to seek professional help.
To improve the emotional well-being of vulnerable adolescents, help to develop a society with greater respect for life; change public perception and awareness of suicide as a preventable health problem; and train 'gatekeepers' to identify youngsters in a crisis.
Train young people to understand about mental health and support their peers.
To help combat suicide, the government of the Republic of Korea encourages programmes to educate ‘gatekeepers’ who can identify at-risk individuals in their communities.
We worked with the Korean Association for Suicide Protection (KASP), an NGO supported by the Korean Ministry of Health, to promote ‘safeTALK’ a training programme for young peer supporters or ‘gatekeepers’. The programme had four stages - Talk, Ask, Listen and Keep Safe - and used videos, role-playing and discussion. Its aim was to train young people to engage with their peers, notice and respond to situations where suicidal thoughts might be present, talk openly about mental health, identify those at risk of suicide and refer them to experts in the prevention of suicide.
We also ran the ASIST Education Program for Training Suicide Emergency Intervention Specialists, to train professionals to help young people in crisis situations.
With KASP we developed a website promoting mental health to young people.'Keep in Touch', and provided online resources and information for young people and enabled young gatekeepers to exchange information and support one another.
88,000 young people were reached with information about mental ill health and suicide.
1,794 young gatekeepers (Peer Educators) and 782 teachers were trained in how to deal with students at risk of suicide.
A further 1,732 parents, teachers, politicians and community leaders were engaged in the programme, which achieved extensive media coverage.
The programme was awarded a 'Love for Life’ prize by KASP.
‘I’m 18 years old and at high school. I live with my parents and my brother who is at university. Before becoming involved in the YHP I felt my life was boring and that I was going round in circles every day.
I took part in YHP activity themed around respect for life and prevention of youth suicide. During the training we watched a film about a teenager who was isolated from her friends. It raised my awareness about young people who may be suicidal and taught me how to respond to them appropriately. It made me reflect on my own behavior towards my friends. I realised that I need to be more attentive to how my friends and family are feeling.
I fully respect everyone’s life now, and feel my relationships with my friends are better than before. It is a remarkable change due to the YHP. I dream of being a designer. I want to design something which can touch people’s hearts.’