Pandemic stress in Japan Photograph:( Reuters )
Suicide has a long history in Japan as a way of avoiding shame or dishonour, and its suicide rate has long topped the Group of Seven nations.
Suicides increased in Japan during 2020 after a decade of declines. The number of women committing suicide has also surged amid the emotional and financial stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic even as fewer men took their own lives.
Suicide has a long history in Japan as a way of avoiding shame or dishonour, and its suicide rate has long topped the Group of Seven nations. A concerted national effort had, however, brought numbers down by roughly 40 percent over 15 years that included ten straight years of decline from 2009.
Preliminary police data published on Friday showed suicides totalled 20,919 last year, 750 more than in 2019.
The suicide rate had been trending lower in the first half of 2020, but from July onward the numbers began to rise as the impact of the coronavirus outbreak hit home.
As many as 13,943 men and 6,976 women took their lives -- a 1 per cent decline on the previous year for men but a 14.5 per cent increase for women, who tend to work in service and retail sectors that suffered more job losses during the pandemic.
The worst month was October, when suicides totaled 2,153 for the highest monthly total in over five years. The number of suicides by women, at 851, rose 82.6 percent on the same month in 2019.
For many years in Japan, getting psychological help has been stigmatised, but when suicides hit a peak of 34,427 in 2003, alarmed policymakers drew up a comprehensive prevention programme launched in 2007.
(with inputs from Reuters)