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Nation opens suicide prevention center for military

TAIWAN -- Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu recently opened a suicide prevention center for military personnel in Taipei.

Kao said at the opening of the center on World Suicide Prevention Day that the ministry hopes to achieve a zero mortality rate from suicide through the help of medical assistance, individual case management and a timely reporting system.

One example cited by Kao of a serviceman who could have been helped by the new system was a soldier stationed in northern Taiwan.

He was recently diagnosed by his psychiatrist to be at high risk for committing suicide, and the soldier in fact tried to kill himself before the paperwork was delivered to his military base.

The serviceman survived, Kao said, but the hope is that the center will create a more seamless reporting system to prevent such cases from happening again.

The center, established in the Beitou Armed Forces Hospital in Beitou District, also has a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline at 0800-395-995 through which military personnel can seek help.

Taiwan's military suicide mortality rate was 7.1 per 100,000 people in 2011, lower than the suicide mortality rates of 15.1 per 100,000 for Taiwan's general population and 11.5 per 100,000 for the American military, according to figures from the Ministry of National Defense's General Political Warfare Bureau.

The World Health Organization has put the global suicide death rate at 16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds.

Meanwhile, social workers at the Social Affairs Bureau in Kaohsiung urged the public to pay greater attention to family members and friends who have expressed suicidal intentions or shown signs of wanting to take their own lives.

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Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) unveils the inscription above the entrance of the Military Suicide Prevention Center at the opening ceremony held at the Beitou Armed Forces Hospital, yesterday. Yesterday marked the World Health Organization's World Suicide Prevention Day. (CNA)

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