National

Suicides in Japan notched eight consecutive drop in 2017, preliminary data show

Kyodo

Suicides fell for an eighth consecutive year in 2017, dropping 3.5 percent from the previous year to 21,140, preliminary data from the National Police Agency showed Friday.

“There has been a steady fall due to the recovery in the economy and efforts made by local governments,” said an official from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

By sex, suicides among men fell to 14,693 — dipping below 15,000 for the first time in 22 years — while female suicides fell to 6,447, setting a record low for the second consecutive year. The NPA began tracking suicides in 1978.

Suicides per 100,000 people dropped to 16.7. By prefecture, Akita logged the highest rate at 24.2, followed by Aomori and Yamanashi at 22.1 and 21.9, respectively.

According to a suicide prevention plan adopted in July, the government’s goal is to bring the ratio below 13.0 by 2025 from 18.5 in 2015, which would bring it in line with Germany and the United States.

The government’s guideline calls for addressing such issues as excessive working hours, postpartum depression and prejudice against sexual minorities.

With the data for December still being analyzed, the preliminary data show a decrease in adult suicides from January through November, though an uptrend was seen among teenagers. For the period, 29 more teenagers committed suicide than in the same period last year.

There has been a call for more effective measures to prevent youth suicides following the serial murders in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, last year in which Twitter users were allegedly contacted and preyed upon after expressing suicidal thoughts online.

On an annual basis, suicides rose above 20,000 from 1978 to 1997 before topping 30,000 for 14 consecutive years starting in 1998. The lowest number, 20,434, was recorded in 1981, while the highest was logged in 34,427 in 2003.

Yasuyuki Shimizu of Lifelink, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization working to prevent suicides, said he believes the latest data reflect how communities are slowly making progress in curbing suicide.

But he said suicide prevention measures targeting young people are “lagging behind.”

“There is a need to further strengthen support (for them) such as through setting up consultation services via social networking services, as the public and private sector have not yet fully caught up with the changes in the way young people communicate,” Shimizu said.