BACKGROUND & CURRENT STATE:
In Japan, suicide is sadly very prominent. Japan’s suicide rate stands at the sixth highest in the world and the second worst among Group of Seven (G7) industrialized Nations.
According to a report from the Japanese Government…
Suicide rate (number of suicides per 100,000 people) 2017: 16.8
Suicide was the #1 cause of death in children aged 10-19
The main reasons for child suicide in Japan are school-related issues. These issues can range from overworking to bullying. According to Kenzo Denda professor at Hokkaido University, 1 in 12 primary school students and 1 in 4 secondary school students suffer from depression, which causes many of them to commit suicide.
Suicide becomes very common on September 1st when students come back from their summer holidays. Then the suicide spike occurs again in April when Japanese students start their new academic year.
Since I am currently living in Japan, I frequently see how overworked many of the local Japanese teens are. At a typical Japanese school, the students are expected to attend school six days a week. Five days of regular school work plus activities/clubs and Saturday just to focus on their clubs. There is also a presence of physical and verbal bullying, which in combination with the academic stress can lead some kids to commit suicide. I advocate for change because I have heard too many stories on the local news covering child suicide.
WHAT IS BEING DONE?:
Since child suicides spike on September 1st, “suicide watch” begins. Celebrities reach out to children, a Tokyo zoo offers refuge, and the Japanese government takes action.
This past September, Shoko Nakagawa, a popular actress tweeted the message “Never die. Live,” while NHK (Japan’s national public broadcasting organization) created the hashtag “On the night of August 31st” to draw attention to the problem. Ueno Zoo—Japan’s oldest zoo—opened up their doors to children nervous to go to school. The zoo’s Twitter account tweeted out “If there’s no place to escape, come to the zoo.” Authorities are more cautious urging schools to monitor their students closely. Additionally, the government sets up a 24-hour telephone counseling service that children or parents can call for assistance.
CHANGES THAT NEED TO BE MADE:
The Japanese schools and government need to be on high alert throughout the course of the year, not just in September and April. Hotlines should be accessible to children in public areas, especially near schools. Japan needs to do a better job of educating their youth on mental health and make sure schools have a fulltime licensed counselor readily available during school hours.
In Japan, mental illnesses are highly stigmatized. Nobody talks about it so many people suppress it.
There needs to be more public advocacy for mental illness. More coverage on mental illness through the use of posters, public talks, T.V shows etc. may open up conversations on a culturally taboo topic.
- Talking about wanting to die.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
- Signs of depression, such as moodiness, hopelessness, withdrawal
- Hinting at not being around in the future or saying goodbye
- Preoccupation with death.
- Suddenly happier, calmer.
- Loss of interest in things
- Giving things away, such as prized possessions.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?:
If you suspect someone may be feeling suicidal or struggling to cope, ask them. Suicide prevention depends on our ability to recognize people who are in distress and may be at risk.
If the person has an immediate suicide plan and means to carry it out, do not leave them alone. Get help immediately by calling the police or ambulance.
Stay involved. Thoughts of suicide do not disappear suddenly. The continuing involvement of family and friends is very important for recovery.
Look after yourself too. Supporting a suicidal person is very hard mentally and emotionally. Do not do it alone, get help from family, friends, or professionals.
Autin, Lucy. “Child Suicide in Japan: the Leading Cause of Death in Children.” Humanium • We Make Children’s Rights Happen, 4 Oct. 2017, www.humanium.org/en/child-suicide-in-japan-the-leading-cause-of-death-in-children/.
France-Presse, * Agence. “Japan on Suicide Watch as Children Go Back to School.” The National, The National, 1 Sept. 2017, www.thenational.ae/world/asia/japan-on-suicide-watch-as-children-go-back-to-school-1.624874.
Lu, S. The mystery behind Japan’s high suicide rates among kids. Wilson Quarterly, October 22, 2015, http://wilsonquarterly.com/stories/the-mystery-behind-japans-high-suicide-rates-among-kids/
“Measures to Reduce the Youth Suicide Rate.” The Japan Times, www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/08/04/editorials/measures-reduce-youth-suicide-rate/#.WtMmYdNuYn0.
Oi, M. Tackling the deadliest day for Japanese teenagers. BBC, August 31, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34105044