Issues | THE FOREIGN ELEMENT

Taking steps to educate the community on youth suicide

Staff Report

There are around 600 steps that you can climb to get to the main deck of Tokyo Tower. Those who’ve signed up for the TELL Tokyo Tower Climb, however, have already taken the most important step.

The Tokyo-based not-for-profit organization is holding its annual climb for the third year to mark World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10 and raise awareness about mental health issues. The climb itself will take place at the tower on Sept. 8, bright and early at 7:30 a.m.

Last year’s event raised more than ¥4 million, with proceeds going toward providing support to TELL’s crisis chat service, which operates 24 hours a day and handled 8,825 calls in 2018. While initially focusing on the English-speaking community, TELL has, over the years, expanded its services to provide support services in multiple languages.

Lifeline Director Vickie Skorji says this year’s climb will focus in particular on the mental health issues that are facing an increasing number of young people living in Japan.

“(They) feel more anxious about their future and fall behind many other countries in well-being,” Skorji says. “Knowing what mental health problems look like and providing support for young people is essential if our youth are to grow up health and achieve their full potential.”

According to a recent study in the United States, there has been a 52 percent increase in depression rates among people aged 12 to 17 there, and a 63 percent increase among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 over the past 10 years.

Increasing awareness of suicide prevention is “important now, more than ever,” Skorji says.

The Tokyo Tower Climb will be limited to 500 participants. Those who’ve missed the deadline to sign up this year can help in other ways, though, including a crowdfunding campaign and related walks that will be held in other parts of the country.

For more information on TELL Tokyo Tower Climb, visit www.tellevents.org.