A Japanese government white paper has revealed that suicide has become the leading cause of death among young Japanese.
Using 2019, data, but only released in the past week, the government in Tokyo detailed 659 cases of suicides in young Japanese in the 10 to 19 age range- a jump of 60 compared to a year earlier.
It was also revealed that taking one’s own life was also the leading cause of death in all Japanese up to and including the age of 39 in comparison to World Health Organisation (WHO) stats – with Japan the only first world nation where this is the case in the age-specific 15-34 range.
And, whilst the figures are themselves disturbing, it does highlight the fact that Japanese society as a whole is far less violent than other economically advanced nations.
Similarly, in comparison to other nations in Asia in particular, and fellow members of the G20, Japan has far lower levels of death on the roads as a result of traffic fatalities: with only the UK comparable at a ratio of around 5.7 deaths per 100,000.
Globally admired levels of health coverage and medical facilities add to overall low levels of death from disease and sickness in Japan’s younger generations.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns and other limits on social interaction are still being discussed – suicides from July to October having increased every month with no immediate sign of decline.
The issue of suicide and less obvious forms of self-harm are, however, garnering more attention in recent years in Japan, a society in which feelings are typically shared only with family and close friends.
Both self-harm and suicidal tendencies have featured in television dramas and have started to be addressed in school curriculums according to sources.
An increase in recognised bullying numbers released in the last month in Japan is also an indicator that these issues are being taken more seriously and recognised. In the past they would often have been denied outright or simply swept under the carpet.