In Japan, there were more suicide victims in the month of October than people died in the whole of 2020 from the effects of Covid-19. This is evident from figures released by the Japanese government.
In Japan, 2,153 suicides were reported last month. The total number of deaths from the pandemic for the entire year 2020 is 2,087.
A mental health crisis?
Health experts warn of a mental health crisis. Not only in Japan, but almost all over the world, the pandemic is starting to weigh heavily on people. Mass unemployment, social isolation and feelings of anxiety mean that more and more people are facing serious mental problems.
The Japanese figures are not unimportant, because the country is one of the few to follow the most recent suicide figures. By way of comparison: the latest available suicide figures in Belgium date from last year.
The Japanese data could provide other countries with insight into the effect of the corona measures on mental health and the groups most vulnerable.
Also in other countries?
‘We haven’t even had a lockdown and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries … yet we see a big increase in the number of suicides,’ says Michiko Ueda, professor at Waseda University in Tokyo and an expert on the field of suicides, on the American business channel CNN. According to him, this may indicate that other countries could also see a similar or even greater increase in suicides in the future.
Japan has had one of the highest suicide rates in the world for years, according to figures from the World Health Organization. In 2016 Japan had a suicide rate of 18.5 per 100,000 people. That is almost twice the global average of 10.6 per 100,000 people. In Asia, only South Korea is doing worse than Japan.
While the reasons for the high suicide rate in Japan are complex, the long working hours (a phenomenon known as karoshi), the pressure to perform in school, the social isolation and a cultural stigma surrounding mental health issues are most often cited as factors at play.
Over the past 10 years, the suicide rate in Japan had fallen to about 20,000 last year. That was the lowest number since 1978. But the pandemic now seems to have reversed that trend.
Anyone who has questions about suicide, or needs a conversation, can contact the Suicide Line on the free number 1813 and on the site www.zelfmoord1813.be.