• Kyodo

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Counselors available through a free 24-hour hotline have been fielding an increasing number of calls from survivors of the 3/11 disasters contemplating suicide.

The hotline was set up in the three hardest-hit Tohoku prefectures following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“The number of people seeking advice about suicide is increasing and their concerns are becoming serious,” an official of the hotline operator said Monday.

The official pointed to such lifestyle changes as living as an evacuee for triggering thoughts of suicide.

According to a report by the operator, the hotline handled 561,656 general consultations in fiscal 2013 from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

About 28 percent of the calls, or 154,792, were made by people considering suicide. That is about 2.5 times the number of such consultations handled by other general advice hotlines across the rest of the nation.

The data — for which there are no comparable figures for fiscal 2012 — showed that residents in the disaster-stricken areas continue to struggle emotionally more than three years after the March 2011 disasters.

Not all of the calls could be handled due to a shortage of counselors. According to the report, advice was given in 11,759 cases regarding suicide.

Callers to the special hotline as well as to the hotline for the 44 other prefectures are first asked to cite their concerns from categories such as “general advice,” “suicide prevention” and “women’s consultation,” which includes domestic violence and sexual abuse.

The report said 67 percent of the people calling last November cited psychological reasons for considering suicide.

The report also showed that 31 percent cited factors such as separation, divorce and remarriage, with 21 percent noting deaths or separation from family as leading to thoughts of suicide.

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