Suicide in slump capitalism: a report from The Japan Times
bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Fri Aug 22 15:14:23 MDT 2003
Monday, August 18, 2003
Halting the rising suicide trend
The number of suicides in Japan last year exceeded 30,000 for the fifth
consecutive year. That's more than three times the number of deaths from
traffic accidents. The high incidence of suicide is attributed mainly to the
prolonged economic slump. This situation demands efforts in various fields
to implement specific preventive measures, including improvements in mental
The annual number of suicides in Japan used to average about 20,000. In
1998, though, the figure began soaring past 30,000. It remained nearly level
for a while and then rose further last year for the first time in three
years. Now suicide ranks as the sixth leading cause of death among Japanese
people. For people in their 20s and 30s, it is the leading cause of death.
Another characteristic of the current trend is that suicide is increasing
among middle-aged men. According to statistics compiled by the National
Police Agency, the number of suicides motivated by economic difficulty rose
to a record high 8,000 people last year. Background factors included
unemployment, restructuring and debts.
In addition to those who commit suicide, there are about 10 times more
people who attempt suicide. The anguish and grief that suicides and
attempted suicides inflict on tens of thousands of family members each year
is incalculable. Yet deep-rooted prejudices concerning the causes of suicide
tend to obstruct efforts to work out preventive measures.
At the end of last year, a council organized by the Ministry of Health,
Labor and Welfare came out with proposals for preventing suicide. It called
for improving mental health care arrangements and suggested countermeasures.
About 80 percent of people who commit suicide suffer mental problems such as
depression. Various surveys have revealed that half of those who commit
suicide visit a hospital to seek help with physical problems as early as a
month before the fatal act. But in most cases mental problems are
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