Even though Japan may not have the highest suicide rate in the world, unfortunately it’s still quite common. Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people in Japan, and the most popular place to commit suicide in the world, Aokigahara Forest, is located in Japan as well.
The Japanese National Police Agency and Cabinet Office recently released statistics on the suicides that occurred in 2014, and while they’re continuing the downward trend of the past five years, they’re still quite high compared to other countries.
In 2014 there were a total of 25,374 suicides throughout Japan. Here’s the breakdown into the reported reasons for people choosing to end their own lives:
Health Problems (15,000)
Unknown Cause (7,000-10,000)
Economic Problems (5,000-8,000)
Family Problems (4,000)
Work Problems (2,000)
Relationship Problems (1,000)
School Problems (400)
Breaking the numbers down by gender, 17,354 (68.4%) of the suicides were men, and 8,020 (31.6%) were women. Men comprising almost twice as many of the suicides may seem like a huge difference, but it’s more or less the typical ratio between male and female suicides in Japan. The closest the two percentages have ever come to being equal was in 1990 when men accounted for “just” 61.6% of suicides.
Over 25,000 suicides in a year – almost 70 a day – may sound like a lot (because it is!), but compared to the peak year of 2003 with 34,427 suicides, at least we’re seeing the figures heading in the right direction. In 2007 the Japanese government issued a nine-step guide to prevent suicide, in the hope of bringing down suicide rates at least 20% by 2017. Based on the 33,093 suicides in 2007, that would mean hitting 26,474 or fewer by 2017. Last year already hit this goal, so let’s hope the trend continues.
Of course Japanese netizens had lots to comment on about these stats, not all of them considerate and understanding:
“Well this just proves that being a woman is playing life on easy mode.”
“Yeah, men are the ones who feel responsible for things, so they take their lives when it doesn’t work out.”
“Society is constructed in such a way that men are expected to work but women aren’t, so that causes them a lot more stress.”
“Come on. If you’re willing to die, then doesn’t that mean you can just go do anything? Throw away your problems, run away, and change your life; don’t end it!”
“(In response to above) That’s only something mentally healthy people say. For some, its easier to give up rather than continuing to try hard and get nothing.”
“Well, better luck next life.”
While it’s easy to point fingers and blame government or society for not doing enough to prevent suicide, it’s important to remember that the best way to prevent it starts with us, the individuals. If you know someone who’s having a hard time, sometimes just giving a random hug, or perhaps looking at pictures of cute Shiba Inu and kitties together, can make all the difference. Failing that, there are plenty of people all around the world who are both trained and willing to help in times of crisis.