공감인 Empathetic persons

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공감인 Empathetic persons

South Korea
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

In a society that has chronically higher levels of violence and suicide rates than any other OECD countries, Hye-shin is enabling ordinary citizens to help themselves and people around them overcome their emotional and psychological trauma. By equipping ordinary citizens with the power and tools of promoting mental well-being, Hye-shin has created a solution whose scale is on par with the scale of the mental health crisis besetting South Korea.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea has the highest suicide rate among OECD member countries. At 28.4 deaths per 100,000 as of 2011, Korea’s suicide rate is more than twice the average of other OECD countries. Another 15,000 people attempt to take their own lives annually. Suicide rates have tripled over the past decade, showing a particularly sharp increase following Korea’s financial crisis in the late 1990s. Suicide prevention measures in Korea have largely relied on providing medical treatment. The conventional hypothesis is that people with a high risk of suicide are those suffering from clinical depression. Efforts to prevent suicide have therefore focused on training community health workers and medical professionals to recognize warning signs and medically respond to risk factors. Both the national government and the Seoul city government have invested billions of dollars in supporting this approach, but suicide rates remain stubbornly high. Their own effectiveness study has pointed out that drugs and professional consultation alone are inadequate to address the problem. In addition, despite the ever growing needs for mental health care, there is a strong social stigma attached to admitting one’s psychological difficulties. In a society where individuals are pressured for excellence at all times, recognizing one’s own emotional and psychological struggles are often seen as a sign of weakness, especially among men.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Each generation of Koreans has experienced waves of violence against citizens over the past 60 years: starting with the Korean War, followed by state violence directed against citizens under military dictatorship in the 1970-80s, and the financial crisis and massive economic restructuring in the late 1990s that destroyed societal faith in job stability and economic mobility. Korean society as a whole has had few opportunities to confront this series of collective trauma and its impact on a large proportion of society. Left unaddressed, the effects go beyond a particular generation, as older generations often project their psychological status onto younger generations in the form of societal norms and expectations. The widely shared experience of violence, and consequent collective trauma passing through successive generations, have been implicated in South Korea’s highest and fastest growing suicide rate among the OECD countries. Korea’s mental health care system has been largely inadequate to address the impact of collective trauma on individual citizens. There are simply not enough medical professionals to address the problem given its scale and multigenerational reach. Furthermore, most mental health professionals are trained to address clinical mental health needs. Hye-shin therefore is enabling a vast number of ordinary citizens with varying degrees of emotional and psychological needs to access tools and societal support to address their own mental well-being and that of people around them. From a simple and affordable self-evaluation tool to a new counselling model that focuses on shared trauma and collective healing, Hye-shin has created a set of highly replicable and self-multiplying approaches to turn ordinary citizens – a virtually untapped resource when it comes to mental health – into healing agents for themselves and others. At the heart of Hye-shin’s work is a design principle that empathy is the key to transformative healing and that true empathy comes from shared experience. From this perspective, a series of collective trauma in Korea’s modern history becomes an asset for empathy, not a societal liability. A psychiatrist by training, Hye-shin learned from her own experience working with victims of torture and laid-off workers and their family members that those who suffered extreme emotional trauma can be excellent counsellors and healers for other people because they truly understand the pain and the process of recovery. Hye-shin is putting this principle to work at scale by empowering ordinary citizens to become what she calls “wounded healers.”