In Japan, in October 2020, government statistics show that suicide claimed more lives than that of COVID-19 for the entire year. According to Japan’s National Police Agency, there were 2,153 Japanese suicides in October 2020. According to the health ministry, Japan’s total COVID-19 toll is 2,087.
“We didn’t even have a lockdown, and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries…but still we see this big increase in the number of suicides,” said Michiko Ueda, an expert on suicides and an associate professor at Waseda University, Tokyo. “That suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future.”
According to the WHO Japan has one of the highest rates of suicides, worldwide. Reasons are complex and include long working hours, school pressure, a cultural stigma around mental health and social isolation.
For ten years before 2019, the suicide rate had been decreasing in the country, since Japanese health authorities began keeping records from 1978. The pandemic seems to have raised the number of suicides especially among women whose number rose by 83% this October when compared to the number of suicides in October, the previous year, while the number of men who committed suicides rose by nearly 22% over the same time frame.
Mental health hotlines and NGOs for mental health have been set up in Japan. Perhaps the rest of the world can follow suit and set up more facilities as anxieties and mental health problems caused by the pandemic are most likely to increase, as the surge of coronavirus cases and deaths increase.
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