Japan's Suicide Epidemic

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For the last decade, Japan has been facing an epidemic of suicides. The reasons why the Japanese people commit suicide are numerous and the Japanese government is struggling to slow this sweeping trend while having only limited success. Japan’s suicide rate is one of the highest rates among industrialized countries, sitting currently at 51 per 100,000 people per year (WHO). With an average of one suicide every fifteen minutes in Japan, a complete societal change must occur for the epidemic of suicide to be reduced. In the late 1990’s, Japan’s economy went into a recession and the country’s suicide rate jumped from 24,000 to over 30,000 per year, and has stubbornly stayed at that rate since 1998 with no indication of declining statistics. The executive director of Japan’s largest suicide hotline, Yukio Saito, comments on this year’s economic spiral downward, “We are very worried that the suicide rate will go up again this year and reach a new high.” The 7,000 volunteers of the Inochi No Denwa Telephone Lifeline handle over 700,000 calls per year and are struggling to keep up with the sheer volume. According to Saito, the lifeline is under-staffed and underfinanced. The reasons that suicide rates are so high in Japan range from the economy to the ease of obtaining information to the religious beliefs. The Japanese are under high pressure to perform, both academically and economically. Japan’s society rarely lets people bounce back from the perceived shame of bankruptcy or failure. There is also a high level of competition in Japanese society right from childhood. The Internet has been a huge contributor to the suicide rate by having instructions posted on how to take your own life by mixing detergent with other ch... ... middle of paper ... ...f financial ruin or humiliation. It has to stop being viewed as the acceptable or responsible thing to do. Japan has an uphill battle on their hands, but if they can overcome their long tradition of suicides dating back to the days of the samurai, they can start getting into the frame of mind of “this too shall pass,” and start asking themselves, “What can I do to change my situation?” Works Cited Feiler, Bruce. Learning To Bow: Inside The Heart of Japan. New York: HarperCollins, 2004 Ryall, Julian. Suicide Lines Struggling to Cope in Japan. January 8, 2009. Telegraph UK. February 26, 2009. 4169043/ Suicide-lines-struggling-to-cope-in-Japan.html> WHO: Suicide Rates. May 2003. World Health Organization. February 26, 2009.

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