Suicide in Japan

Suicide in Japan



Japan’s suicide rate is the second highest among eight major industrialised nations. On average, about 100 Japanese people commit suicide everyday, most commonly men. According to National Policy Agency, the number of suicides in Japan was 21,897 in 2016 and has been dropping since; however, Japan’s suicide rates still remains to be eighth in the world, with it most commonly occurring from 20 to 30 year olds. Suicide remains a prevalent issue in Japan today with its infamous “suicide forest” that recently made the headlines. Tied to cultural norms and other factors, suicide has becomes something that is not spoken about. While people in Japan may be aware of the problem, people living outside of the country may not be aware of this issue. 

As someone that has lived in Japan for several years now, I have been able to see this problem unravel. At the same time, I have been able to see how little the issue is spoken about here in Japan. Everyday, I hear stories about Japanese people who commit suicide. This needs to come to a stop. As a train rider in Japan, I am very aware of when trains are shut down due to the fact that someone has taken their life. With a voice and a direct connection to the country, I hope that I can simulate change and bring awareness to this prevalent issue that needs to be spoken more often about.


The challenge?


Why does this occur:

There is no simple answer as to why the suicide rate is particularly high in Japan. However, there are a few factors that may play into it. One factor leading into it the Japan’s cultural attitude towards suicide. Due to the conformist aspect to to society, it is common that one’s self worth is measured by how they are perceived by others. This can lead to a more fragile state of self-worth when one is placed in a state that may not follow cultural norms. With this being said, a large amount of pride resides in their accomplishments. With suicide as something that was and continues to be looked down upon, this is a contributing factor to the extremely high rates.

The fastest growing demographic of suicide is most among young men. A contributing factor to this is linked with business, work, and pride. In 2009, when Japan reached its worst recession since World war two, the unemployment rate when up to 6%. This unemployment accounted for more than 50% of all suicides that year. In figure 1, you can see the rates go up tremendously from the previous years. This unemployment also led to an increase in the number of hours spent at work and less time off, leading to something commonly known as karoshi: suicide from overwork. This also contributed to the rise in depression in Japan and continues to exist as one of the main contributing factors to the high suicide rate in Japan.

What is being done?

The Japan government has taken on several projects to reduce the suicide rate. Prompted by the public, one thing that the Japanese government is doing is taking measures to reduce the excessive working hours. As it is something that is not commonly spoken about, the Japanese government is also looking to promote education efforts in order to help students when in need and how they can seek help. The Japanese government also set up a toll free hotline that is accessible to all. With these various measures that the Japanese government has taken as well as other companies such as Tell Japan in raising awareness, it still remains a prevalent problem in Japan. Many people are now aware of the telephone services and Japan still remains number eight on the world scale of most suicides.

What can be done?

The next steps is to not only bring awareness to this problem globally, but also try to make a change locally. I think the first step in this is to make my school more involved. We are able to have a voice here in Japan and make a change. The next step I am going to take is to bring awareness to my school. This can be through various forms such as posters, a speech, or even creating a club at school that is dedicated to solving this problem.  The next step that you can take it to bring awareness to your own school. By bringing awareness to my school, I hope that we can bring it outside the school community and create conversation about the issue amongst others.

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  1. April 26, 2018 by Young Kim

    I live in Japan and depression and suicide is definitely a problem that not only is stigmatized but known in secrecy in Japanese society. I think that in order to solve this issue, social changes must be made first.

  2. April 30, 2018 by leilani.ahina

    I really appreciate that you clearly state that there are no easy answers to explain this phenomenon. You provide great information for those not familiar with the details of what is happening in Japan with regard to this issue in an informative, and also personal way. And I agree with you, that increasing awareness is an important step.

    • May 01, 2018 by Isabelle.Franz

      Thank you! I think is is very important to first establish how severe of an issue it is, here in Japan, in order to effectively educate an audience about the topic. Like I said before, I think due to that fact that the is a topic that is very unspoken about in Japan, I think the “simplest” step we can take to raise awareness within the community.

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