The annual number of suicides in Japan has fallen below the 30,000 level for the first time in 15 years, the National Police Agency announced on Jan. 17. This is good news and praise should go to various efforts made by the central and local government and private-sector organizations.

But compared with other countries, the number of suicides in Japan is still high. Suicide-prevention efforts at all levels should not be slackened. Both the central and local governments should continue to push such measures as the training of personnel who can provide counseling for people who may be feeling suicidal, building suicide-prevention networks, and improvement of counseling and support for those who have attempted suicide as well as the bereaved families of suicide victims.

In 2012, 27,766 people killed themselves — a decrease of 2,885 or 9.4 percent from 2011 and falling to a level below 30,000 for the first time since 1997. From 1978, when the police started taking statistics on suicides, to 1997, the number of suicides was annually between 20,000 and 25,000. It topped 30,000 for the first time in 1998. The number of people who committed suicide rose sharply in March that year when the business year ended for most firms. The year before, significant numbers of small and medium-size enterprises began failing due to a credit crunch. Since then, the number stayed above 30,000 through 2011.