Child Suicide Rates in Japan Are Rising

Natalie Mosso, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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Japan’s suicide rates have recently increased, with 2017 containing the highest level of suicides in over three decades.

Japan has always contained prevalent problems revolving around suicide and self-harm, but they had begun to see a decline in suicide rates in the last decade due to an era of national suicide prevention in Japan; however, the rates have risen once again, with children becoming a major component in the overall issue. Child suicides have been more prominent in Japan than adult suicides. According to data released by the Education Ministry, over 250 children in elementary, middle, and high schools took their own lives.

The reason for the students taking their lives is unknown, as they did not leave behind explanations as to why they did it. The most common assumptions from parents are the struggles children face while in school – bullying, family problems, and academic pressure.

Japan’s government conducted a survey in 2015 that gathered that child suicides would most often occur on September 1. September is when summer break is over and when the school year begins, which raises speculation that school heightens the pressures children experience.

Lack of awareness has been an issue that schools face, not only in Japan but worldwide. Most schools do not offer educational opportunities for students to learn about mental health.

It is difficult for children in Japan to discuss their mental illnesses with others because Japan is not as focused on mental health awareness as other countries, including the United States. Vickie Skorji, a director of a crisis hotline at TELL in Tokyo, says, “In Japan, your biggest problem is that there is a greater stigma about mental health problems than in other countries.” Children in Japan who talk about their mental challenges are often dismissed, unsupported, and bullied.

Japan has been working towards lowering its suicide rates once again. In 2016, the government of Japan constructed a plan to reduce Japan’s suicide rate to 30% by the year 2026. They plan to incorporate counselors into every elementary and middle school in the country.

“We’d love to eliminate such tragedies altogether, but the reality is several hundred children are taking their lives (each year),” says Koju Matsubayashi, an education ministry official. “It’s important to teach children how to get help as soon as possible … because it becomes harder and harder to find help once they’re already suffering. The light at the end of the tunnel gets darker and darker until they begin to start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as death.”

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About the Writer
Natalie Mosso, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Natalie Mosso (12) is a senior at Santiago High School and a first year journalism student. She is an avid fan of films, books, and music, and she loves...

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