National / Social Issues

Child support groups gear up for action as suicide rate peaks at end of summer break

Kyodo

Nonprofit organizations and other entities supporting children are stepping up efforts to prevent kids from committing suicide as students who kill themselves tend to do so around the end of the summer school vacation.

According to figures released by the Cabinet Office in 2015, suicides among people aged 18 or younger between 1972 and 2013 were mostly concentrated on or around Sept. 1, when the new semester starts at schools in many parts of the country.

The children’s suicide rate also tends to rise around the end of the spring and Golden Week school holidays in April and May, suggesting that returning to school after vacation is a huge hurdle for children, especially among those who are worried about being bullied.

The government’s suicide-prevention white paper for 2015 pointed to the need for more proactive measures after long school breaks, saying that “increased pressure or emotional dismay tend to hit children after vacations.”

Childline, a Tokyo-based NPO that provides telephone counseling services, said it plans to extend its operating hours to help worried children in eight prefectures from late August to early September and to launch an online chat counseling service for nine days beginning Aug. 29.

“A one-on-one counseling service will be available free of charge on smartphones or computers. There will be no need to identify the caller or their school. We will keep it secret,” an official of the organization said.

Another incorporated NPO plans to open its facilities around the end of the summer holidays in six prefectures to provide free space for children refusing to attend school.

“Last year, we received many inquiries from parents,” said the organization’s secretary-general, Hiroyuki Matsushima. “We want as many children as possible to know that they have an option outside school and that there is a way to live through this.”

The Foundation for Promoting Sound Growth of Children has recently asked around 4,600 children’s centers across the nation to cooperate and accept at-risk children at their facilities.

Zenkoku Futoko Shimbunsha (National newspaper for children who stopped going to school), an NPO that issues twice-monthly newspapers carrying news on schools, social recluses and other issues, plans to send out a message to children to offer them support, together with other organizations promoting the sound growth of young people.

“At this time of the year when the risk (of children committing suicide) is at its highest, we want adults to take extra care and not to miss SOS signals from them,” said Hironobu Koguma, the NPO’s secretary-general.