Every year in Japan some 30,000 people kill themselves. Last year, a basic law to counter suicide went into effect, declaring that suicide prevention is the responsibility of both the central and local governments. A government study body has recently come up with proposals for suicide prevention plans. This initial and concrete step on the part of the government is encouraging. Now it has to secure the personnel and budget to implement the proposals.

The study group reports that suicide is not only a problem for those involved but a concern for all citizens. Noting that excessive hard work, unemployment and bankruptcy create stressful situations that can lead to suicides, it opines that customs and systems that contribute to such stress should be reviewed.

The health ministry has a goal of reducing the number of annual suicides to 22,000 or less by 2010. The study group, however, recollects that the number reached 30,000 in 1998, jumping by more than 8,000 from the previous year, and calls for a severer long-run numerical goal. It also calls for better monitoring of mental health at workplaces and more professional examinations of potential sufferers of depression.

Attention was also drawn to attempted suicides, the number of which is believed to be at least 10 times more than those who succeed. The group believes that continued physical and mental care for such people is necessary to prevent repeat suicide attempts.

The group, which says that many suicides can be prevented if there is enough support from society, is proposing detailed measures. These include providing suicide prevention education at schools, increasing the number of counselors and securing sufficient time for counseling at schools, and providing counseling services for the unemployed and multiple debtors. The group also suggests installing fences on train platforms and even posting counseling service information at famous suicide spots.

By considering the study group’s proposals, local governments also must work out their own measures, which would be responsive to individual local situations.

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