National / Social Issues

School issues are No. 1 reason behind youth suicides in 2018, Japanese government white paper finds

Kyodo

School-related matters led to more suicides last year among youth aged between 10 and 19 than any other issue, the government said Tuesday in its annual paper on the topic.

Of 568 people in that age bracket who took their lives last year, 188 were attributed to school-related issues, followed by health problems at 119 and family issues at 116, according to the 2019 white paper on suicide prevention measures.

The results, which included cases of multiple identified motives as written in suicide notes or elsewhere, underscores that school affairs play a key role in the lives of young people.

The suicide rate for people aged below 20 rose 0.2 percentage point from the previous year to 2.8 in 2018, hitting a record high since the data was first logged in 1978, a government report showed Tuesday.

Across all age groups the rate, which represents the number of suicides per population of 100,000, stood at 16.5 — down for the ninth consecutive year and marking a record low — according to the paper. Still, the figure is higher than in other advanced countries.

While the overall number of suicides in Japan fell for the ninth consecutive year in 2018 to 20,840 — slipping below 21,000 for the first time in 37 years — the figure for those in the 10- to 19-year-old age bracket has been roughly flat since 1998.

In the paper, the government said it is necessary to verify the effects of suicide prevention steps and review them while closely monitoring the situation of the youth.

Among suicides in Japan by people of all ages, the most common motive was health-related, followed by economic and livelihood issues and family matters.

Under comprehensive measures against suicides adopted in 2017, the government aims to reduce the rate to 13 per 100,000 people or less by 2026.

The ministry was approached by 22,725 people seeking advice through its consultation service on social media designed to prevent suicides by young people. People aged below 20 accounted for the biggest share, at 43.9 percent, followed by those in their 20s, at 41.3 percent. Of the total, women made up 92.1 percent.

The number of inquiries totaled 35,104, including multiple inquiries by one person. Those regarding problems with mental health accounted for 23.6 percent, the largest share, those with family problems came in at 11.1 percent, while 8.5 percent came from those with schools issues.

The survey found that for elementary and junior high school students, family-related matters such as discipline issues or bad relationships with their parents were major factors related to suicide.

For high school and university students, key reasons included weak academic performances, worries over choices of future courses or depression.

The white paper pointed to a need to spot the issues afflicting students at an early date and address such problems by teaching them ways to ask for help and deploying more counselors to schools.