Fighting South Korea’s Suicide Crisis With Fake Funerals
In Seoul, everyone from corporations to cafes is working to lower the world’s highest suicide rate.
The Hyowon Healing Center in Seoul takes an unorthodox approach to treating South Koreans with suicidal thoughts — it acts as if they’re already dead. Once or twice a week at Hyowon, thirty or more suicidal individuals gather to plan their own funeral, say goodbye to their loved ones and lay inside of a closed wooden coffin, part of a class roughly translated as “Heal Dying.” The idea being, of course, that the more they observe the aftermath of their death, the less likely they’ll be to want to die.
The program is also meant to make a difference culturally. Suicide and depression traditionally aren’t topics of conversation in South Korea, which is a big reason why the country has had the world’s highest suicide rate for 11 years and counting. “In Korea, people tend to keep their mental problems and hardships to themselves,” explains 35-year-old Taiyun Kim, who recently attended Hyowon’s “Heal Dying” class. “And if you were to tell anyone, it would be shameful.”
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