Suicide continues to be the main cause of death among working-age Japanese

The government aims to bring down karoshi – death by overworking – by 30% before 2026

Suicide continues to be the main cause of death among working-age Japanese

Japan’s suicide rate hit a record low last year, with 21,897 having taken their own lives in 2016. But the nation still ranks sixth highest in the world, and suicide continues to be the leading cause of death among working-age Japanese men and women.

The government has pointed to karoshi – death by overworking – as a national concern. According to a report by the Straits Times, it aims to bring down those numbers by 30% before 2026.

Yutaka Motohashi, director of the Japan Support Centre for Suicide Countermeasures, said on Tuesday that to effectively tackle this issue, the nation needs to concentrate on finding the root causes of societal depression.

He cited excessive work, school bullying, a lack of postnatal support for mothers, and isolation among elderly as the driving causes behind Japan’s high suicide rate.

Two cases of karoshi made national headlines over the last three years, bringing the mental toll of overworking into the spotlight. On Christmas Day in 2015, a 24-year-old employee of Japanese ad agency Dentsu took her life due to overworking and workplace harassment. Earlier this year, a 23-year-old construction worker took his after clocking in 200 hours of overtime a month.

Last month, Japan released a suite of proactive countermeasures to support the mental wellbeing of its citizens, tackling the societal depression that lies at the root of suicidal tendencies. This includes a Labour Ministry blacklist of firms that violate labour guidelines and a new programme to socialise mental health in the workplace.

These new measures will be handled by local prefectures, to ensure the national response to the suicide epidemic is as nuanced and effective as possible.

If you or someone you know dealing with issues relating to depression or suicide, contact SOS (Samaritans of Singapore) on 1800-221 4444.


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