The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Adolescent Suicide Triggered by Problems At School in Korea: Analyses Focusing On Depression, Suicidal Ideation, Plan and Attempt As Four Dimensions of Suicide

Friday, January 18, 2013
Grande Ballroom A, B, and C (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Jae Yeon Park, PhD, Researcher, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang, South Korea
Ick-Joong Chung, Associate Professor, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea
Eun Mi An, BA, Student, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea
Purpose: Recently, issues related to adolescent suicide have received much attention in Korea. The rate of suicide is 22 for every 100,000 people in 2008—the highest in the world in that year. Problems at school have comprised the single largest catalyst of adolescent suicide in Korea, accounting for 11.7% of all suicides in this demographic group in 2010, for instance. Suicide has now become the most prevalent cause of death among Korean teenagers. This study aims to investigate adolescent suicide triggered by problems at school in Korea, by focusing on four dimensions of suicide: depression, suicidal ideation, plan and attempt.

Methods: Data were collected from 664 middle- and high-school students in Korea; structural equation modeling analyses were utilized. Factors such as academic stress and school violence are considered as independent variables, while ego resilience, family resilience, and academic resilience are considered as mediators which are also protective factors. The dependent variables consist of four dimensions related to adolescent suicide: depression, suicidal ideation, suicidal plan, and suicidal attempt. Differences in the paths among models with different dependent variables are compared.

Results: The results of the structural equation modeling analyses indicated that academic stress has positive effects on depression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal plan, but negative effects on family and academic resilience. School violence has positive effects on depression, suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt but negative effects on family resilience. Both ego and family resilience act as protective factors, negatively affecting depression and suicidal ideation. Ego resilience, however, has no significant effect on suicidal plan or attempt while family resilience has negative effects on all four dimensions. This study has confirmed that academic stress and school violence relate to adolescent suicide as risk factors. The effects of protective factors diminish in dimensions that are acute in nature, such as a suicide plan or attempt. Family resilience is a key protective factor in models of all four dimensions.

Implications: A high level of academic stress at school does not necessarily lead to a suicidal attempt. However, it can become a risk factor that could lead to a suicidal attempt if a student suffers from a high level of stress while simultaneously experiencing depression and having ideas about a suicidal attempt—especially, if related symptoms worsen and timely treatment is not provided. Therefore, when adolescents reach a certain level of depression or suicidal ideation, it is extremely important to apply a direct intervention and selective treatment. Additionally, in order to reduce the amount of stress experienced by most adolescents in Korea, it is necessary to change the social atmosphere related to the Korean education system, as well as education policies that put too much emphasis on the university entrance examination. Instead of overly emphasizing academic achievements expressed in terms of the university entrance examinations, it is necessary to help adolescents find meanings in their lives in other areas. Similarly, it is necessary to encourage them to find a career path appropriate to their own capabilities and aptitudes.