K-pop singer's death sparks suicide alert
The apparent suicide on Monday of 27-year-old Korean singer Kim Jong-hyun, the lead vocalist for the hugely popular K-pop band Shinee, has prompted fears at the Department of Mental Health that young Thai fans might copy the star and try to kill themselves.
The department released a statement Tuesday warning parents to monitor their children's behaviour to see if there were any changes after they learnt about the superstar's death, adding that copycat suicides usually happen to people who already have thoughts of self-harm.
Dr Boonruang Triruangworawat, the department's chief, said suicide is the cause of death of more than 800,000 people a year in the world and that number is expected to rise to 1.5 million by the year 2020; meanwhile, the number of people who attempt suicide is 20 times higher.
Warning signs include crying a lot, quietness and talking about suicide, he said.
"Committing suicide is a thing we can prevent and symptoms of depression should be treated. It is very important to talk with family, friends and psychologists when you feel like this," he said.
According to the department, the number of suicides among Thai people last year was 6.35 per 100,000 people, falling from 6.47:100,000 in 2015. The 35-39 age group has the highest suicide rate.
Many Thai fans have been saddened by the passing of Kim, better known as just Jonghyun, which South Korean police said was a suicide. Some fans said they were still too shaken to talk about what happened.
Ekapol Wong, a representative of the band's fan group in Thailand, said he was still shocked and saddened by the news.
He added that it was only when he read an official statement released by Jonghyun's record company about the death that he realised the news was actually true.
"I still had a glimmer of hope he might still be alive."
The fan group might organise a making-merit session as a tribute to Jonghyun, he said.
The group's Shinee-Thailand Facebook page has 179,000 Likes and 30,000 followers on Twitter.
Another Thai fan who asked not to be named said fans loved the singer so much because he was really devoted to them.
"He [Jonghyun] didn't make us feel like he was an 'idol'. He made us feel like he was our friend, a younger brother, or an approachable big brother. He made us feel we were appreciated," she said.