UPDATE: This story orignally said “suicides” increased by 600%, but we were quickly made aware that “suicide attempts” were what actually increased by 600%. Suicides themselves declined. The article has now been corrected. 10 Magazine sincerely apologizes for the mistake.
In a country infamous for the #1 suicide rate in the OECD and the #3 highest in the world, the bridge infamous for the most suicides in the nation has gotten a lot of scrutiny. Many have sought ways to prevent these tragic incidents on Seoul’s Mapo Bridge. In a very well-meaning attempt to help, the city of Seoul, Samsung Life Insurance and Cheil Worldwide have inadvertently given the world what appears to be an example of how extra attention can actually increase suicide attempts.
The campaign was called, “The Bridge of Life,” and the concept was met with massive international acclaim, winning Cheil a Bronze Spike at the Spikes Awards as well as Asia’s only Titanium Lion Award at Cannes Lions. On the rails of the bridge they posted a variety of caring phrases and a smattering of smiling faces in an attempt to get people to feel cared for and consider their loved ones.
The measures, begun in September of 2012, have instead dramatically increased the number of suicides attempts. They’ve led to not just double or triple the rate, but an over 6-fold increase year on year. Actual suicides, however, did decline. According to statistics kept by the Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters and sited in Hankyorae, in 2012 there were a total of 15 people who chose the Mapo Bridge to attempt suicide, compared to a total of 93 people in 2013. The vast majority of these were talked out of jumping in 2013, with only 8 people actually having jumped. In 2012, all 15 jumped from the bridge to their deaths.
Chosun Biz consulted an expert on the topic, and he laid blame not on the sayings and photos of the campaign, but on the fact that the campaign itself attracted so much attention that it gave the bridge an even greater reputation for being a place to commit suicide. Jeong Tae-su of the Korean Association of Suicide Prevention explained, “Among people who seek to end their own lives, some are of the mentality that they want to leave behind a symbol or remnants… those sorts of people look for a renowned place.”
Below are some of the signs with their translations.
|“Have you eaten?” (A common Korean greeting.)|
“S.O.S – The Phone of Life”
|Are your friends better? Or… Do you prefer your lover?|
|“You are the one and only ‘you’ in the world.”|
|“It’s nothing…” See picture below for conclusion.|
|“It’s nothing… things like anguish… when you’re young… [wait until you] get older.”|