Japan continues to see suicides related to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami although nearly 10 years have passed since the disaster, which hit the Tohoku region hard.
Last year, there were five such suicides, raising the total since 2011 to 240, according to the government’s 2020 white paper on suicides and other data.
About half of the total occurred in Fukushima Prefecture, which also took a blow from the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
In the white paper, suicides linked to the March 2011 disaster are defined as those that happened at evacuation centers or provisional housing for evacuees, those of evacuees and those confirmed to be linked to the disaster through suicide notes or explanations from bereaved families.
In 2011, disaster-linked suicides numbered 55, of which 42 were committed by men and 13 by women. The annual total stood at 24 in 2012 and 38 the next year.
In 2018, the figure was nine, falling below 10 for the first time. But the number rose to 16 in 2019.
Of the 240 suicides since 2011, 56 people were in their 50s, followed by 53 in their 60s and 33 in their 70s.
Health problems were considered a reason for suicides in 112 cases, family problems in 52 cases, and economic and life-related problems in 50 cases.
The hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima in Tohoku accounted for 96 % of the total since 2011. There were 54 cases in Iwate, 58 in Miyagi and 118 in Fukushima.
Fukushima’s number is believed to include suicides by people forced to evacuate because of the nuclear accident at the Tepco plant.
“I hope that the central and local governments will be more compassionate toward each disaster victim, not only providing economic assistance,” Osaka University professor Tetsuya Matsubayashi said.
“Especially, municipalities should take steps to create environments that make it easier for disaster victims to maintain their relations with others in their local communities so that suicides and solitary deaths can be prevented,” said Matsubayashi, who studies relations between quake disasters and suicides.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency in Japan, please call 119 for immediate assistance. The TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. For those in other countries, visit https://bit.ly/Suicide-Hotlines for a detailed list of resources and assistance.
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