Economy blamed for rise in Japan’s suicide rate

I posted earlier that the Japanese actually have a word for working yourself to death: Karoshi

Now it seems that the economic downturn has increased Japan’s already high suicide rate.  The fact that they also have a “suicide forest” is pretty bleak as well.  But at least Japan takes things like working yourself to death and suicide because of unemployment seriously and have made treatment a priority…on the other hand, it seems fair to say that societal pressures have to be contributing and creating the problem to a certain degree.  It seems like the number of murder suicides in the US has increased but it’s possible that the media is just paying more attention to these horrible stories now as they seek out any stories that are even slightly related to the depressed economy and joblessness.

Desperate Japanese head to ‘suicide forest’ –

I guess my point is, it’s hard to tell when someone is crisis…sure I haven’t showered or gotten dressed today…but that doesn’t mean that I’m taking walks in suicide parks…on the other hand, there are plenty of people who mask the signs very well.  We have to look out for each other right now-those of us who are struggling with the pressure of being the only bread winner in the home, those of us who are jobless and feeling less than fabulous about it, and everyone else who’s just depressed about the current state of affairs.  Spring starts tomorrow and let’s hope its a fresh start for everyone.

How to help someone with depression-wikihow


3 thoughts on “Economy blamed for rise in Japan’s suicide rate”

  1. There’s some woodsy acreage in Portage County with a similar rep.
    It’s called the Arsenal (the National Guard train there) and word rarely gets out about events and suicides . Plus over the last few years they have been building bunkers.

  2. Western media reports on suicide and mental health care in Japan rarely get it right. I am a psychologist and psychotherapist working in Japan for over 20 years and so like all of my colleagues in the mental health care field here share with them the view that copycat suicides have a lot more to do with press and media copy than western misconceptions about relatively more group oriented societies in Asia.

    I would like to put forward a perspective on the real reasons behind the unacceptably high suicide Japan from Japan and so will limit my comments to what I know about here in Japan but would first like to suggest that western media reports on suicide rates in Asian countries should try harder to get away from the tendency to orientalize the serious and preventable problem of increased suicide rates here over the last 10 years by reverting to stereotypical ideas of Asian people in general. People here do not wake up one day and say, “Hey, let’s commit suicide today because I hear it is all the rage in Shanghai and Tokyo and the word is that even the Changs and Suzukis are doing it!” In other words Asians are real people too and not lemmings and it is more than every before the time the world wide media puts aside its mystical cliches, anciently outdated and jaded misconceptions on the hundreds of thousands of men and women who take their own lives every year in Japan and other countries throughout Asia.

    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 bursting of the stock market bubble here that peaked around 1997. Until that year Japan had an 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 very proactive and well funded local and nation wide suicide prevention programs and initiatives are immediately it is very difficult to foresee the governments previously stated intention to reduce the suicide rate to around 23,000 by the year 2016 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.

    The current numbers licensed psychiatrists (around 12,000), Japan Society of Certified Clinical Psychologists clinical psychologists (16,732 as of 2007), and Psychiatric Social Workers (39,108 as of 2009) must indeed be increased. In order for professional mental health counseling and psychotherapy services to be covered for depression and other mental illnesses by public health insurance it would seem advisable that positive action is taken to resume and complete the negotiations on how to achieve national licensing for clinical psychologists in Japan through the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and not just the Ministry of Education as is the current situation. These discussions were ongoing between all concerned mental health professional authorities that in the ongoing select committee and ministerial levels that were ongoing during the Koizumi administration. With the current economic recession adding even more hardship and stress in the lives its citizens, now would seem to be a prime opportunity for the responsible Japanese to take a pro-active approach to finally providing government approval for national licensing for clinical psychologists who provide mental health care counseling and psychotherapy services to the people of Japan.

    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) 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.

    Useful telephone number for Japanese residents of Japan who speak Japanese and are feeling depressed or suicidal: Inochi no Denwa (Lifeline Telephone Service):

    Japan: 0120-738-556 Tokyo: 3264 4343

    Andrew Grimes

    Tokyo Counseling Services

  3. Thank you for your insightful comments, Andrew. It was very informative. I myself have never noticed a cultural bias in the “english” media towards Japan and it’s suicide rate but I also am woefully uneducated in the subject. Suicide is a global issue but it seems that there are cultural differences that impact both causes and treatment. A few members of my extended family have committed suicide and it is an issue that is close to my heart. Thanks for posting and I’m sorry I’m not a journalist who can properly report on the issue. Best of luck.

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