(The Chosun Ilbo) -- Some 709 schoolkids in South Korea attempted suicide last year, the biggest number since the Ministry of Education started tallying the statistics in 2011.
Some 144 youngsters did kill themselves.
But the budget allocation for the School Mental Health Resources and Research Center, which offers counseling and support for students, has dropped from W1.5 billion in 2015 to W936 million this year (US$1=W1,197).
Prof. Hong Hyun-joo at Hallym University said, "Children who complain about depression are highly likely to resort to drastic measures if they watch content online depicting suicide or self-harm. Offices of education need to hire professionals and establish their own systems of monitoring and treating students who are in danger."
The number of attempted suicides by juveniles has surged 19 times from just 37 cases in 2011, and they happen earlier and earlier. Until 2017, most of the attempts were made by high schoolers, but last year the 259 high schoolers who tried to kill themselves were outnumbered by 391 middle schoolers.
There were no recorded suicide attempts by elementary schoolchildren in 2011, but last year there were 58. Out of the 144 youngsters who committed suicide last year, three were in elementary school. The increase happened although the overall number of youngsters is falling, from 7.8 million in 2006 to 5.6 million last year.
Experts blame lack of communication as young people are increasingly wrapped up in their electronic devices. They also blame an alarming fad of YouTube videos depicting suicides and self-harm. A song about suicide became popular among elementary schoolkids recently, while selfies showing self-harm have become a trend among teenagers.
Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Kwak Sang-do, who published the data, said, "We are in desperate need of support for each schoolkid facing a mental health crisis."