In a bid to combat its high suicide rates, South Korea has rolled out a comprehensive plan to offer mental health checkups every two years for young Koreans aged 20 to 34 and other counselling services tailored to all age groups.
It was the first-ever detailed state policy aimed at tackling the country’s suicide rates, which was the highest among member nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for almost 20 years, with 25.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2022.
According to The Korea Herald, to tackle the country’s consistently waning mental health, the government will implement mental health checkups once every two years, starting with those aged between 20 and 34 and later expanding to all age groups to detect warning signs early on. The government also plans to join forces with mental health welfare centres and hospitals’ psychiatric departments.
President Yoon Suk Yeol announced the new state drive at a mental health policy meeting the same day, with Yoon saying that he would form a new presidential committee to map out mental health policies and look after investments and infrastructure for mental care.
“Now is the time for the country to take active measures to ensure the mental (health) of its people. Mental health issues are not something individuals can take care of (by themselves). We must make it an important national agenda and seek solutions.”
The plan also includes providing psychological counselling services to 80,000 people next year and expanding the number to some 1 million people by 2027 to help individuals experiencing early signs of mental challenges quickly recover.
Meanwhile, the government will also designate phone number 109 as a new mental health crisis hotline and provide online text message therapy for youth and young adults who may prefer nonverbal methods of communication.
“By investing boldly in public mental health, we will create a society where all citizens can use mental health services anytime, anywhere, and where mentally ill people can receive proper treatment and live together,” said Minister of Health and Welfare Cho Kyu-hong.
Moreover, the ministry will launch a nationwide campaign to curb stigma against people with mental illness by teaming up with organisations at universities and mental health advocacy groups. It plans to develop media reporting guidelines on mental health to minimise discrimination and bias.
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