Campaign needed for social understanding
Many Koreans have misconceptions over mental ailments ― no awareness, no disease, and no need for treatment. They often underestimate them. They seldom equate mental health and physical health to a happier life.
A government report said 16 percent or one out of every six Korean adults endured mental trouble in the past year. It also finds 27.6 percent or one of every six people qualified as suffering from psychosis at one point in their lifetime.
Mental disorders are common worldwide. Korea is below the global average. The World Health Organization says more than one in three people show mental distress at some point in their lives. The organization estimates a third of people in most countries report psychological problems at some point in their lives.
The Health and Welfare Ministry’s latest report is sketchy in grasping the seriousness of the situation. It excluded juveniles from the survey. A comprehensive research might put the number of psychiatric patients higher than the recent data suggests.
The survey, however, alerts policymakers and the people that the ailments need immediate attention. Korea’s suicide rate is one of the world’s highest. The high rate ascribes to various mental disorders.
The report says 6.7 percent of people complain over symptoms of depression, which is often a precursor to suicide.
The report fails to classify the types of illness. Probably, many Koreans struggle with disorders of anxiety panic, often causing sleeping problems and other stresses.
Many people face differing degrees of melancholia, phobias and social anxiety disorders. They seldom admit they are suffering from mental illnesses that require professional treatment. Excessive use of drugs is also a form of mental disorder. Passivity, aggressiveness, impulsiveness and self-defeatism are also personality disorders that require close monitoring.
Doctors also list some mental disorders such as amnesia, megalomania, exhibitionism, schizophrenia, manic depression and a persecution complex.
Koreans tend to hide psychical disorders out of fear of social exclusion, stigma and discrimination. Lack of social understanding worsens the condition of the mentally challenged.
Social campaigns must be initiated to deepen the understanding of the psychiatric disorders and challenge social exclusion. Peers and family members sometimes worsen the conditions faced by patients through their casual and unintended derision or mockery. Mental illness has long been frowned upon as a luxury disease.
Social intervention is necessary. Friends and family members must be emphatic to patients and encourage them to consult with psychotherapists.
The country lacks in the number of psychotherapists. Medical insurance coverage of the mental patients is not comprehensive.
Korea is the only country in the world that became a donor country after receiving foreign aid. Its rags-to-riches economic story is unprecedented. However, many Korean people rarely say their happiness has increased in keeping with economic progress. This perceived high degree of unhappiness may increase stress and possibly mental disorders. Physical illness and emotional disorders are a normal part of life and many are curable.