Japan suicides rise as economic impact of coronavirus hits home

The nation is bracing for the third wave of infection


Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga prepares to unveil a third supplementary budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He might have another problem to deal with, though-- suicide rates have increased in the country, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. October saw an increase in suicide rates for the fourth month in a row-- the numbers were the highest in more than five years and the main reason analysts cite is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, on women in particular.

The nation is bracing for the third wave of infections, as per an SCMP report. Cases in Hokkaido and Tokyo are soaring. Tokyo officials reported 293 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections in the capital to more than 32,000. Hokkaido reported 160 new cases on Tuesday. Experts have warned that unless countermeasures are taken immediately, the number of cases will continue to increase rapidly.

According to the Labour Ministry, more than 70,000 jobs have been lost, thanks to the pandemic. Among the 2,153 suicides in October, 851 were women. Suicides in the country seem to have increased after a couple of star deaths— a television star Kimura Hana died of suicide in May and Miura Haruma killed himself in July. In September as many as 1,805 people took their lives, the National Police Agency reported and August saw 1,850 suicides.

Suicide cases among men have risen by 21.3 per cent from numbers in the same month in 2019. Women have been disproportionately affected by job losses in the pandemic as women tend to hold more of the non-permanent positions in retail and service industries.

Suga's stimulus package worth 10 to 15 trillion Japanese Yen (approx $1.42 billion) is expected to create new employment opportunities. Tens of thousands of people are facing financial trouble due to job losses and are struggling to bring their lives back to normal.

Japan, where getting psychological help is stigmatized, has the highest suicide rate among G7 countries. The country saw 34,427 suicides in 2003. 20,000 people died of suicide in 2019. The decrease was due to efforts by the government, making counselling more accessible, capping overtime and identifying at-risk groups.

Mental health is an aspect that has traditionally been neglected in Japan. The World Health Organization (WHO) says mental health care has suffered as a result of the pandemic in more than 60 per cent of the 130 countries it recently surveyed.


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