South Korean women
Workers are asked to write their last letters to loved ones and are made to lie inside coffins (Representational image)Getty

Companies in South Korea seem to have found a unique, reflective way to curb the country's suicide rate, which is the highest in the world. The firms are making employees stage their own mock funerals.

Workers are asked to write their last letters to loved ones and made to lie inside coffins, which is then shut for a couple of minutes. Enclosed within, they can reflect on their lives. Workers are also shown videos of diverse people living in extreme conditions to make them realise that their lives are far better and that they should accept life and its problems.

The exercise, according to employers, helps workers value life over stress. "I thought going inside a coffin would be such a shocking experience it would completely reset their minds for a completely fresh start in their attitudes," Park Chun-woong, president of a human resources firm, Staffs, in Seoul, told BBC Magazine.

He said it was hard to bring about any real difference through the exercise, but a few employees took it positively. "I've realised I've made lots of mistakes," an employee named Cho Yong-tae said of his coffin experience. "I hope to be more passionate in all the work I do and spend more time with my family."

High rates of suicide and mental illness

According to a health report issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED), South Korea recorded an average of 29.1 suicides per 100,000 people in 2012. The report revealed that mental health status and stress levels of South Koreans were equally worrisome as the OECD recorded an increase in the number of inpatient psychiatric beds.

One cause of this, the organisation pointed out, was inadequate psychological therapies, for example in the outpatient clinic or community facilities. The OECD has suggested that the country needs to follow in the footsteps of Britain and Australia to curb the rise in suicides and cases of mental illnesses.

"Korea could follow examples such as the United Kingdom's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme or Australia's Better Access services, both of which increase availability of evidence-based therapies for mild and moderate mental illnesses," it said.


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