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Riya Baibhawi – Republic World Nov 29, 2020

While Japanese ‘art of sparking joy’ is becoming a global trend, a recent report has revealed that more people in the country died of suicide in October than due to COVID-19 in the entire year. Japan, which stands at 58th rank in the Happy Planet index, has been witnessing an upsurge in suicide cases in recent times. While the country saw a decline in suicide rates in the last decade, the COVID-19 pandemic teamed with mass employment, social isolation and anxiety have reversed the trend.

Increasing suicides in Japan

Japan is one of the very few countries, which releases timely data on suicide, aiding other nations to devise policies on mental health. As per the latest government data, suicide has claimed more lives in October alone than coronavirus in the entire 2020. As per Japan’s National Police Agency, a total of 2,153 people killed themselves last month, while the number of COVID-19 related fatalities totalled to 2,087.  According to experts, the main reasons for Japan’s high suicide rates include long working hours, school pressure, social isolation and cultural stigma around mental health.

Woman are disproportionately affected

Although, women represent a small proportion of total suicides in the country, the rise in suicide is constantly increasingly amongst gender. In October alone, suicides among women surged by almost 83 per cent as compared to the same month the previous year. Meanwhile, male suicides rose almost 22 per cent over the same time period.

The reason of the disproportionate rate has been many. Woman constitute a large proportion of part-time workers in the travel and hospitality industry, which has largely bear the brunt of the pandemic. In addendum, they have also been dealing with skyrocketing unpaid care burdens and anxiety about their children has made it worse. Another major reason has been unprecedented domestic violence and sexual abuse by husband, father, brothers and other men of the house.

Anxiety in Children

Japan is the only G-7 country where suicide is the leading manner of death for young people aged 15 to 39. As the pandemic struck, schools were closed exposing children to stressful homes lives and pressure of lagging behind in homework and acdemics .it was worsened as contact with friends lessened.  As per National Center for Child Health and Development, which recently conducted a nationwide survey of more than 8,700 parents and children, 75% of Japanese schoolchildren showed signs of stress due to the pandemic. All this, teamed with a succession of celebrities taking their own lives has worsened the situation in Japan.