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Stars Under Extreme Stress

2005/02/24 Source

Depression Drove Actress Lee to Suicide: Police

By Bae Keun-min
Staff Reporter

Mourners bid farewell to late actress Lee Eun-joo during a funeral on Thursday at a hospital run by Seoul National University in Pundang, just south of Seoul.

Police concluded that depression drove Lee to suicide. She had received treatment for her condition at the hospital.

Doctors said she had complained of insomnia and suffered severe stress due to her work.

Lee, the star of such hit films as "Taegukgi" (2004) and "The Scarlet Letter" (2004) as well as the recent MBC television drama "Firebird (Pulsae)," was found dead in her apartment in Pundang.

According to police, she hanged herself in the walk-in closet in her home. She left a note written in blood, saying: "Mother, I'm sorry. I love you."

Family members said she began to show symptoms of depression after taking on a sexually explicit role in "Scarlet Letter" and agreeing to a semi-nude scene for "Firebird."

Although the number of people suffering from depression has risen due to rapid social changes, singers and actors tend to develop more serious symptoms due to their line of work, experts said.

The extreme stress and tension faced by celebrities can lead to depression.

"It is easy to understand why they fall into depression upon returning to their normal lives because they have been isolated and disconnected while working," psychiatrist Kim Jung-il said.

Symptoms of the condition include loss or increase in appetite, loss of sexual desire, insomnia and lethargy, which may cause changes in weight, exhaustion and constipation.

However, there is a misconception that depression is a disease of weak-minded individuals. Depression can have a variety of reasons, including biological, social and economic factors, said Suh Tong-woo, researcher at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA).

Experts estimated that some 5-9 percent of females and 2-3 percent of males suffer from depression.

Some 20 percent of the total population suffers from depression at least once in their lifetime, they added.

"Depression is very painful. Many patients choose self-destruction to escape the pain," said Min Sung-kil, a psychiatrist at Severance Hospital in northern Seoul.

Some 15-20 percent of depression patients attempt suicide and 2-3 percent succeed.

"Depression is different as it continues for more than two weeks and gets in the way of living a normal life," Korea University Medical Center psychiatrist Lee Min-soo said. "The chemical imbalance in the brain needs to be restored with medication."

"The recovery ratio is estimated to be some 70-80 percent," Suh of the KIHASA said. "The illness is considered easier to overcome than heart disease through medication and counseling."

"We need to understand the pain of people who frequently think and talk about suicide, rather than considering them weak," said Cho Maeng-je, professor at Seoul National University Hospital. "They need help and support."

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