In Asia, suicides rise due to financial crisis

Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:13pm EST
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By Tan Ee Lyn and Kim Junghyun

HONG KONG/SEOUL (Reuters) - Chan Kiu-hung thought about committing suicide when she discovered that her retirement nest egg had been lost with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

"I was in despair. I lost my appetite and couldn't sleep at all. We lost all our money. It was very painful," said Chan, who came out of retirement to work as a maid, and her husband as a lift attendant, to make ends meet.

Suicides generally increase during times of economic troubles, experts say, and Asians may be particularly susceptible as the region has among the world's highest suicide rates.

With this in mind, Asian governments are setting up hotlines and counseling centers to help those hit hardest by the financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn.

In South Korea, a commuter train operator is even installing doors blocking access to railway tracks due to a sharp increase in people committing suicide by jumping in front of trains.

Millions of people in Asia have lost their jobs and retirees and other small investors have lost their life savings due to plunging stock markets and the collapse of investment funds.

Since the full force of the financial crisis hit Asian shores late last year, Paul Yip, a mental health and suicide prevention specialist in Hong Kong, has seen a jump in the number of patients coming to his clinic for help to cope with the downturn.

"Work is very important to the Asian because we don't have very good social security and losing one's job is associated with the loss of 'face'. So the trauma can be great," said Yip.   Continued...