Suicide crisis continues

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suicide

Why are so many young people in Japan committing suicide? Adam Yamaguchi looks into this disturbing trend. Read the JT article and then watch Adam’s video. Click here for Japan Suicide Hotlines. 

Japan Times Editorial: As the employment situation worsens in the midst of the deepening economic crisis, it is feared that more people may commit suicide. In 2007, the latest year for which annual suicide statistics are available, 33,093 people killed themselves, making it the 10th consecutive year that suicides topped 30,000.

The first year of this grim streak, 1998, saw the number of suicides jump by some 8,400 from the previous year’s figure of roughly 24,000. The number of people who committed suicide jumped in March that year when the business year ended for most firms. The year before, significant numbers of small and medium-size enterprises began failing due to a credit crunch. The current situation in which a large number of workers, mainly irregular workers, are losing jobs, has spawned fears that 2009 could be a similarly appalling year.In view of the situation, the National Police Agency has decided to compile and issue a monthly report on the number of people who have killed themselves. If everything goes according to schedule, the January figures will be made public this month.

In 2007, the government set a goal of decreasing the suicide rate — the number of suicides per 100,000 people — by 20 percent or more from the level of 2005 by 2016. It is hoped that the NPA’s new practice will prompt government and nongovernment organizations pursue more effective policies to prevent suicides.

Of the people who killed themselves in 2007, those aged 60 or over formed the largest group at 12,107, followed by people in their 50s (7,046) and people in their 40s (5,096). Health problems, including depression, accounted for 14,684 suicides; financial and livelihood problems, 7,318; family problems, 3,751; and work-related problems, 2,207.

It is likely that poor business conditions, overwork, unemployment, debts and depression lead people to contemplate suicide. Government and non-government organizations should work together to establish an efficient network in which unemployed workers can easily obtain counseling and advice.

Check out the second part of Adam’s investigation here.  JAPAN SUICIDE HOTLINES

4 Comments

  1. The thing about japanese society is that your life is basically decided on one day in March at 15yrs old. You get into the right high school, then you get a second test. Pass that one and your life is set. Upward mobility in japan isnt necessarly decided by hard work or effort, or even ability. It is decided by passing the right tests.

    So when a kid wants to get a job as an engineer at some upper crust company, he has to go to one of 4/5 predefined schools. Maybe there is the rare occasion of some guy pulling himself up by his own “bootstraps” but its no where near like the west. In the west, there is an idea of redemtion. That you can make something of yourself at 25, 35, 45 heck, even in retirement you can reinvent yourself.

    But in japan, that idea doesnt exist. You are what you are and you must fit in your box and like it. You dont like it? Tough, you need to try harder to be a good japanese.

    This society only gives lip service to bullying, yet it is the basis of how the society works. The people in the highest positions demand extra of the people below them and those lower positioned people have little choice but submit. Kids see this and ignore the posters and cartoons because actions speak loudest.

    When people lose hope, they lose their reason to live.

    Even the JLPT. I have taken level one for the last 3 years. My lowest score was my most recent test. I almost passed it the first time i took it. Is my ability getting worse or is the level of the test being adjusted to restrict qualifications to a given few. For me, its ok that i only speak “JLPT level 2 japanese” because i can only get 67% of the questions right on a test that changes year to year and seems to have no clear “standard” clearly diagramed in a series of professionally written books. The test is not like say, the GMAT or SAT where you are given clear parameters, what words you MUST know, what words are necessary to function in japanese society, what words are needed to read a newspaper. There are people everywhere in japan that can read a paper, speak fluent japanese, and still “fail” mutiple times.

    But imagine if your future was dictated by a test that has no standard other than “we must make this test so that only 30% of the people who take it ‘Pass'”.

    You dont pass, you are not worthy of having hope for the future, even if you can solve the heck out of any practical application of the information at hand.

    The most interesting thing about all of it is that almost every foreigner in japan can see the root of the problem but none of the japanese seem to see it.

    As the job market gets tighter, there is no way this streak will NOT continue until the society as a whole starts looking at people as more than just grades on a test.

  2. I am a JSCCP clinical psychologist and JFP psychotherapist working in Japan for over 20 years. I would like to put forward a perspective on some of the main reasons behind the unacceptably high suicide numbers Japan and so will limit my comments to what I know about here in Japan

    Mental health professionals in Japan have long known that the reason for the unnecessarily high suicide rate in Japan is due to unemployment, bankruptcies, and the increasing levels of stress on businessmen and other salaried workers who have suffered enormous hardship in Japan since the fallout of the bursting of the stock market bubble here that peaked around 1997. Until that year Japan had annual suicide of rate figures between 22,000 and 24,000 each year. Following the bursting of the stock market and the long term economic downturn that has followed here since the suicide rate in 1998 increased by around 35% and since 1998 the number of people killing themselves each year in Japan has consistently remained well over 30,000 each and every year to the present day.

    The current worldwide recession is of course impacting Japan too, so unless the new administration initiates very proactive and well funded local and nationwide suicide prevention programs and other mental health care initiatives, including tackling the widespread problem of clinical depression suffered by so many of the general population, it is very difficult to foresee the previous government’s stated target to reduce the suicide rate to around 23,000 by the year 2016 as being achievable. On the contrary the numbers, and the human suffering and the depression and misery that the people who become part of these numbers, have to endure may well stay at the current levels that have persistently been the case here for the last ten years. It could even get worse unless even more is done to prevent this terrible loss of life.

    During these last ten years of these relentlessly high annual suicide rate numbers the English media seems in the main to have done little more than have someone goes through the files and do a story on the so-called suicide forest or internet suicide clubs and copycat suicides (whether cheap heating fuel like charcoal briquettes or even cheaper household cleaning chemicals) and mirrors at stations, and now lights at stations, without focusing on the bigger picture and need for effective action and solutions.

    Economic hardship, bankruptcies and unemployment have been the main cause of suicide in Japan over the last 10 years, as the well detailed reports behind the suicide rate numbers that have been issued every year until now by the National Police Agency in Japan show only to clearly if any journalist is prepared to learn Japanese or get a bilingual researcher to do the research to get to the real heart of the tragic story of the long term and unnecessarily high suicide rate problem in Japan.

    Some other useful telephone numbers and links for residents of Tokyo and Japan who speak Japanese and/or Engish and are feeling depressed or suicidal and need to get in touch with a mental health professional qualified in Japan:

    Inochi no Denwa (Lifeline Telephone Service):
    Japan: 0120-738-556
    Tokyo: 3264 4343

    AMDA International Medical Information Center:
    http://amda-imic.com/

    Tokyo Counseling Services:

    http://tokyocounseling.com/english/
    http://tokyocounseling.com/jp/

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