<p> Rising unemployment systematically leads to higher suicides in Japan (here at the Tokyo Befrienders hotline for suicide prevention, May 2020). </p>
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The Covid-19 pandemic is heightening fears of a lasting rebound in suicides in Japan. The latest figures attest to it, the number of people ending their own life has risen again after years of decline: 1,854 people committed suicide in August, an increase of 16% over one year, announced the October 2, the National Police Agency (NPA). This was the second consecutive monthly increase. The figure would have gone almost unnoticed if the victims had not included several popular figures.

Kyoto University has calculated that every one point increase in the unemployment rate causes 2,400 more suicides.

On September 27, Yuko Takeuchi, heroine of the series Miss Sherlock and twice awarded the Best Actress Award in her country, ended her life. This summer, actress Sei Ashina, revealed by the film Silk, and actor Haruma Miura, a rising figure in Japanese cinema, had done the same. Their tragic endings followed that, in May, of wrestler and reality TV star Hana Kimura, victim of harassment.

The announcement of Yuko Takeuchi’s death prompted the government to react. “We have seen an increase in the number of suicides since July. We have to admit that too many people end their precious life ”, soberly declared his spokesperson – and former Minister of Health – Katsunobu Kato, while calling on people in pain not to hesitate to seek help. The Ministry of Health has asked to benefit from part of the funds of the government post-Covid-19 recovery plan, endowed with 117 trillion yen (947 billion euros), to strengthen the means available for prevention suicide.

A taboo topic

Japan has long seemed to ignore these personal tragedies. Psychological suffering remained a taboo. Suicide retained an image of honor, linked to the traditional seppuku – ritual of the samurai. The archipelago has therefore always been among the poor pupils of the developed nations in this area. According to the NPA, economic issues remain the second leading cause of suicide, behind health and ahead of harassment. However, the pandemic has a strong impact on economic activity.

Japan’s GDP plunged 28.1% from April to June, and unemployment fell from 2.4% to 3% between February and August, which, on a Western scale, is a ridiculously low number but which in Japan is a worrying increase. Kyoto University has calculated that every one point increase in the unemployment rate causes 2,400 more suicides. If the health crisis continues, estimates the establishment, unemployment could peak at 6% by March 2021, bringing the annual number of suicides to 34,000.

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