Children who commit suicide tend to do so when they’re due to go back to school after a long vacation, according to a government study, prompting officials to urge that extra attention be paid to youngsters before the end of summer holidays.
The study by the Cabinet Office covered 18,048 suicides by children aged 18 and under from 1972 to 2013. Officials said Tuesday that the number of youngsters who killed themselves on Sept. 1 was significant, at 131. Many schools reopen on that day after summer vacation.
The date for the second-most number of child suicides is April 11, with 99. This was followed by April 8 at 95, Sept. 2 at 94 and Aug. 31 at 92.
All of the dates are concentrated around the end of spring and summer school holidays.
There were relatively fewer suicides committed by children from late July to mid-August, or in the middle of summer vacation, according to the study, which was based on population data from the welfare ministry.
“During vacations when it is hard for teachers to observe children, families should pay careful attention to their behavior and look out for changes in their appearance or health,” an education ministry official said.
Previous government surveys have shown that a major reason for suicides among elementary and junior high school students is trouble at home, including children who might be scolded or who have friction with their parents.
Among high school students, academic problems, concerns about career choices, mental illness and depression emerge as the major contributing factors.
An official of the Cabinet Office said children who commit suicide between the ages of 10 to 15 tend to show no previous warning signs compared with those in other age groups.
“It is important for adults to create an environment where children are able to air their concerns with the people around,” said the official.
The education ministry issued a paper on Aug. 4 to prefectural boards of education and schools, urging them to be vigilant and to strengthen efforts to prevent child suicides following the current summer vacation.
The ministry offers a hotline for children and parents around the clock. The phone number is 0570-0-78310.
On Tuesday, a nonprofit organization supporting children who became averse to going to school and their families said students who feel it is too overwhelming to go to school should stay away for a while.
“Don’t drive yourself into a corner. It is not a shame to avoid school,” said an online newspaper published by the group for such students.
During a news conference later in the day, Keiko Okuchi, the group’s executive, said children who commit suicide tend to do so due to problems at school.
“I want adults to listen to what the child has to say and think (things) through together instead of forcing their opinion on him or her,” she said.
A woman who used to stay away from school also attended the news conference.
Natsue Onda, 28, said she became averse to going to school when she was a second-grader in elementary school, started contemplating suicide at junior high school age and slashed her wrist.
“Even if nothing goes well where you are right now, there will always be a way out,” Onda said.