• Kyodo

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The government said Wednesday it aims to drastically reduce the suicide rate by shoring up support for people who have previously attempted to take their own lives as well as mothers suffering from postpartum depression.

In its latest draft of the suicide prevention guideline, released online, the government targets a 30 percent reduction in the annual number of suicides to below 16,000 in the next decade.

Although total suicides have been on the decline for the seventh consecutive year, falling to 21,897 in 2016, the government acknowledged that “an alarming situation is continuing,” as the rate remains high compared with other developed countries.

With the sixth-highest suicide rate in the world, Japan also plans to bolster measures against bullying in schools and overwork, according to the draft of the guideline, which is reviewed every five years.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet is expected to finalize the guideline this summer after collecting public feedback.

The government is aiming to bring the number of suicides per 100,000 people down to 13 in 2026 from 18.5 in 2015 — a reduction of over 30 percent — by promoting collaboration between the state and private organizations.

Specifically, the government will create medical institutions that would serve as a support hub for people who have attempted suicide. The medical centers would also provide health and mental checkups for mothers soon after childbirth.

Even though about 10 percent of mothers are believed to develop postpartum depression, Japan has not implemented sufficient measures to address the situation, and no nationwide survey has ever been conducted to look into the prevalence of suicides shortly after childbirth.

The draft guideline also said the state will promote the deployment of special staffers tasked with preventing suicides at municipal governments.

It also called for rectifying excessive working hours and addressing mental health issues at companies as the issue has attracted renewed public attention since the 2015 suicide of a 24-year-old female employee of advertising giant Dentsu Inc. was recognized as a case of karoshi, or death from overwork.

To address suicides by youths, the government will boost efforts to inform students about how to seek help from others in schools.

The nation’s suicide rate of 19.5 per 100,000 people was less than those of such countries as Lithuania at 30.8, South Korea at 28.5 and Surinam at 24.2, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which has compiled data since 2013.

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