Olivia Jäggi, winner of the 2019 Giles T. Brown Student Project and Research Symposium, explored suicide rates in the U.S. and compared them with South Korea, a country with “exceptionally high suicide rates,” in her project, “A Comparative Study on Suicide Prevention.”
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and rates in the U.S. have risen 33 percent from 1999 to 2017, according to the National Center of Health Statistics.
Jäggi compared preventative methods in the two countries and how South Korea put in laws and bans to prevent suicides.
According to Jäggi, she started thinking of topics in August 2018, and it took her about six months to decide on a topic to present at the symposium. It took additional time to collect data from the U.S. Center of Disease Control and the Korean Statistical Information Service.
“She’s very disciplined, and that was a big help,” Ulrike Green, an anthropology instructor, and Jäggi’s mentor said of Jäggi.
Green added that some students drop out of the symposium because of the long process and how much time actually goes into the project.
Jäggi chose to compare the suicide rates between South Korea and the U.S. because of her personal connection to Korea. She speaks Korean and was able to translate the research herself.
In 2005, South Korea’s leading methods of suicide were suffocation, pesticide poisoning, other poisons and falling from high places, according to the WHO Mortality Database.
In order to curb poisonings, Jäggi found South Korea put a ban on toxic paraquat pesticides in 2011. Suicides by poisoning reached over 350 deaths per 10 million people. South Korea saw an immediate drop in suicides by finding less harmful replacements for the pesticide.
Jäggi found that in 2009, South Korea put a dent in suicides by installing screen doors in subway stations to prevent individuals from throwing themselves in front of moving trains. South Korea saw an immediate stop of deaths caused by trains after the installations.
With South Korea’s preventative plans, Jäggi called for the same plan to be made in the U.S. She found the leading method of suicide in the U.S. is firearms. About half of all suicides are by guns.
“They’re more lethal,” Jäggi said of guns.
There is no backing out and no hesitation after the trigger is pulled, she added.
Jäggi called for gun control to prevent suicide deaths. She understands it may only be a temporary solution, but “it may just make the difference between life and death for individuals in moments of great distress,” she said in her project.
During the symposium, there was supposed to be a 30-minute window for Jäggi to present her poster and project to judges and attendees. Jäggi ended up presenting her finding all day to attendees who were interested in her project.
Since she was busy presenting her own project, she was unable to take a look at her competition, she said. When her name wasn’t called for the general awards, she thought she didn’t win.
Jäggi ended up winning the grand prize, First Author, taking home $1,500, of which $500 was from an unnamed donor.
“I was surprised I even won,” Jäggi said.
Jäggi will be presenting her project again this Saturday at the Honors Transfer Council of California Student Research Conference hosted at UC Irvine, according to Green.
Other categories of the symposium featured best poster and exhibition of work, best oral presentation of original research and best oral presentation of literature review.
Winners included Caitlin Bates, Alice Dang and Matt Morton, respectively.