June 15, 2007
Written by C.N.
I knew that Japan has a relatively high suicide rate, but I was a little surprised to learn just how high it is. As the BBC News reports, it’s 24 per 100,000, which works out to about 30,000 suicides a year, second in the industrialized world after Russia and twice as high as the U.S.’s. Apparently, it has reached epidemic proportions, so much so that Japanese officials are finally trying to do something about it:
Experts blame a number of factors. Japanese companies and schools are often run without much flexibility; and non-conformity is not tolerated – for those who fail there is often no second chance. The samurai custom of taking one’s life is sometimes given as a reason for modern suicides. Others kill themselves to protect loved ones from embarrassment or to save face. And the lack of religious taboos against suicide are also, no doubt, a factor. . . .
Now, though, the government has set itself a target of reducing the suicide rate by more than 20% over the next 10 years. It plans to try to block access to websites which promote mass suicides, to offer better mental health counseling in the workplace and to organize public campaigns to raise awareness of the problem. . . . Although the latest figures show a slight fall in the overall numbers of suicides in Japan, the number of young people killing themselves rose sharply – up by 23%.
Better late than never, I suppose. I’m a little skeptical however, about the ability of lawmakers and others concerned about this issue to actually make fundamental changes in the Japanese mentality. Electronic gadgets aside, Japan really isn’t known for quick changes in national social philosophy — just witness how many Japanese still revere their World War II military leaders who have been shown to be war criminals, or how they continue to deny the existence of sex slaves during the war.
At any rate, I wish the Japanese the best of luck in tackling this very serious issue.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Trying to Reduce Suicides in Japan" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/06/trying-to-reduce-suicides-in-japan/> ().
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