Why do over 30,000 people kill themselves every year?
Akahata editorial

In 2004, 32,325 people continued suicide in Japan, according to the National Police Agency. The figure began soaring as a result of the worst-ever unemployment situation and increased corporate bankruptcies. Despite the government announcement that "employment has improved" and "the number of business failures is decreasing," the number of suicides has not decreased.

More than 30,000 suicides per year have been recorded for seven straight years. The number for last year was 2,000 fewer than the 2003 peak. It is extraordinary that 89 people commit suicide a day. Those who killed themselves total 227,000 in the past seven years, equivalent to the vanishing of a medium-sized city.

High unemployment rate and economic hardships

The number of suicides has not decreased because the unemployment rate remains high and many people are experiencing business failures and hardships in their daily lives. Note that 7,947 people committed suicides in 2004 because of their economic and worsening living conditions.

In 1998, the number of suicides reached the 30,000 mark. The number of unemployed reached 3.08 million in 2004, an increase of 1.14 million from 1994. It is a disgrace that three million people are completely out of work.

Most of the newly employed are low-paid part timers, temporary workers, and contracted workers. Under unstable conditions of their employment contracts, they are regarded as "disposable."

At a time when major corporations continue to make record profits, their costs are increasingly shifted onto subcontractors, causing more business failures, heavier debt burdens, and suicides.

In a "competitive society that divides people into "winners" and "losers" and under the Koizumi Cabinet's "restructuring policy," many people are forced into the depths of despair. We must stop this cold-blooded policy.

One of the causes of workers' suicides is an increase in the cases of depression and other mental diseases. This tendency is evident at 70 percent of the major corporations with more than 3,000 workers (according to the 2004 white paper on the Mental Health of Industrial Workers).

Employees are suffering from excessive stress and fatigue caused by a fierce competition under the performance-based pay system and uncontrolled long working hours. It is a company's duty to ensure employees' good health.

It is particularly tragic that young people are forced to commit suicide. The number of group suicides is increasing via the Internet.

Suicide is the most common cause of death among those in their 20's and 30's. It is said that youth suicide is a "cry for help."

Young people are increasingly losing their zest for life, and this has become a symbol of a distorted Japanese society.

Under the competition-driven education system, children's self-esteem is deeply hurt. A survey shows that only 37.6 percent of high school students feel self-worth.

After graduating from school, they face difficulty in finding jobs and think, "I am a nobody." About 850,000 young people are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Young people working as regular-workers are also suffering from such harsh working conditions that destroy both their mental and physical health. About 60 percent of insurance compensation payment for work-related health problems is for mental disorders, inducing suicides from excessive workloads among young workers in their 20's and 30's.

Overcoming the present situation that does not treat young people as human beings with dignity is an urgent task for the future of Japan.

Take comprehensive measures to prevent suicides!

In Japan, 25.3 out of every 100,000 people commit suicide. Japan's suicide rate is the third highest after Russia and Hungary. It is government responsibility to eliminate social factors leading Japan to become one of the world's worst "major suicide countries."

In addition, it is necessary to take comprehensive measures to prevent suicides by understanding the agonies of those hard-pressed people and establishing a safety net such as counseling programs. - Akahata, June 9, 2005

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