Suicides top 30,000 for 12th year

Kyodo News

Suicides increased again in 2009 amid the economic doldrums, staying above 30,000 for the 12th straight year, the National Police Agency said Tuesday in a preliminary report.

The total came to 32,753, the fifth most on record and up 504 from 2008, when the number fell by 844 from the year before. It has remained above 30,000 since 1998.

Men accounted for 23,406 of the total and women 9,347.

The rise apparently reflected the economic slump as the number of monthly suicides topped 3,000 from March to May in line with the tendency of people with economic problems to commit suicide around the time the business year ends. Most companies close their books March 31.

The monthly breakdown has stayed high since a double-digit surge to above 3,000 in October 2008, following the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. that September and the subsequent global economic meltdown.

Last year, the monthly figure increased on a year-on-year basis until August but fell somewhat from September after the Aug. 30 election brought the Democratic Party of Japan to power for the first time.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government has set up an emergency task force to address the high suicide rate. One of its measures has been to staff some of the Hello Work public job-placement offices with mental health professionals since November.

By prefecture, the annual total rose by more than 100 in Saitama and Chiba but dropped by that much in Osaka and Hokkaido, the NPA said.