JAPAN: Landmark New Laws Put Suicide Prevention Front and Center
April 29, 2016
The Japanese Diet (legislature) recently passed an amendment to the nation’s 10-year-old suicide prevention law to try an additional approach to reducing its high suicide rate. The amendment requires authorities in all municipalities to implement concrete action plans with specific deadlines. It also aims to foster cooperation across departments to address the multiple factors that can contribute to suicides, including poverty, domestic violence, and health problems. The government must subsidize the projects and also help universities increase the number of professionals in suicide prevention. Yasuyuki Shimizu, director of the suicide prevention organization Lifelink, says that joblessness is a major trigger of suicides in Japan, which has seen years of economic problems in a country where being part of a corporate organization is very important. Finding a new job can be difficult because labor mobility is low. “In Japan, it’s often a case that once you’re fired or your business has failed, a second chance is very unlikely. And that single failure easily endangers your livelihood or life,” said Shimizu. He also claimed that few people in Japan turn to religion for help in dealing with difficulties, leaving them particularly vulnerable. However, there already are some preventive programs in place. For example, Adachi Ward in Tokyo periodically organizes free counseling services, including job placement assistance, and also assigns “personal supporters” to people who are at high risk for suicide to help them with tasks such as getting a job and an apartment.