04/08/2019, 16.09
JAPAN
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Phone lines save Japanese from suicide with deaths down by 40 per cent since 2003, experts say

Those who call suicide lines are mostly in their thirties and forties. In 2018, 56 per cent of users were women, 43 per cent men. Although the overall number of suicides is down, child suicides are up. Girls and young women up to 19 show a "worrying tendency" towards taking their own lives.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan has a high suicide rate. Now experts and volunteers are saying that allowing people to express their innermost feelings has helped cut the number of self-inflicted deaths by nearly 40 per cent from their 2003 peak.

“Are you down? There are people to help lift you up” are messages that can be read on ads posted in Tokyo’s vast network of subways, the site of many suicide attempts.

Most callers to suicide help lines are in their 30s and 40s, 56 per cent of them women and 43 per cent men in 2018.

Akita prefecture lies about 450 kilometres north of Tokyo. It is largely rural, and for decades has had the highest suicide rate in the country.

In addition to the emergency numbers, a network of trained "listeners" operates here, who frequently contact the lonely and isolated seniors who live in the area.

Suicide is one of Japan's most serious social problems. Fortunately, the number of cases has dropped in recent years.

Bucking the trend is youth suicide, which is up. Experts point to school pressures and bullying as possible triggers.

In 2017, the number of suicides among young people reached its highest level since 1986: 250 elementary, middle and high school children took their own life.

Every year, the police publish suicide data. In 2018, the suicide rate reached its lowest point in 37 years.

In the first 11 months of 2018, 16.3 people killed themselves for every 100,000 inhabitants; that’s 20,598 people, down by 3.4 per cent.

Although the trend is positive, the Welfare Ministry notes that girls and young women up to the age of 19 are showing a “worrying tendency” towards suicide.

Still, overall people in their fifties are most at risk. In 2018, 3,225 people in that age group took their life, 91 fewer than in the previous year. About 3,222 in their forties did the same, followed by 2,811 people in their sixties.

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