South Korea combats high suicide rates with "death experience" schools
On average, 40 people commit suicide every day in South Korea, making it the country with the second highest number of suicides in the world. A new and unusual way to help the depressed combat suicide are "death experience" schools where students experience what it's like to be dead and learn to live again. Find out more and see the photos.
South Korea has enjoyed a rapid growth in the last few decades, rising to become the 12th largest global economic power. However, the dramatic economic changes have also been accompanied by increased stress in modern life, as the society becomes more competitive and results in pressures that can be too high for both the younger and older generations to cope with. The suicide victims have also included celebrities who feel the extra pressures under extremely high expectations and demands in the entertainment sector.
The "death experience" schools are an unusual response to the high suicide rates, and they have actually been quite popular. The goal is to let the depressed students experience a fake death so that they can appreciate life again. Here are photos from French photographer Francoise Hugier, who visited the Seoul Hyowon Healing Centre where business is booming.
At the start of a session at the school, the teacher, former funeral company employee Jeong Yong Mun, explains that problems that people face in life are a normal part of life. People must accept these problems as they are and try to find joy in their hardships. Among the students are teenagers who can't cope with pressure from school exams, parents who feel useless once they become empty nesters, or the elderly who feel they are burdening their adult children.
In the classroom, the students begin their session with a photo taken in the style of a funeral portrait. Each of the students sits inside a coffin, writes a farewell letter to their families, and reads their last words to the group. They are then told it's the hour of death and to lie down inside the coffins, which are sealed by a school employee dressed as an "angel of death." A mock funeral service is held.
The students spend 10 minutes inside the enclosed darkness to contemplate and reflect about their lives.
At the end of the session, the teacher comes back to tell them, "You have seen what death feels like, you are alive, and you must fight!"
Strangely, after completing the death experience, many of the students have reported a refreshed sense of feeling "liberated" from their troubles. One participant said, "After the coffin experience, I realized I should try to live a new style of life. I've realized I've made lots of mistakes. I hope to be more passionate in all the work I do and spend more time with my family."
The death experience is designed to help the depressed appreciate life once more. By experiencing the fake death and funeral, it is hoped that the depressed think about how their death would adversely impact and cause pain to their family and loved ones.
What do you think about the death experience school? Since the results are positive in South Korea, do you think it will work for other countries?
(Photo credit as referenced or tagged)
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