Extraordinary suicide rate in Japan and new hope for saving people’s life


Despite being the world’s third richest country, Japan’s suicide rate is ranked number 6th globally and ranked 2nd among OECD countries. Since 1997, more than 30,000 people kill themselves each year in Japan. The number translates into three people taking their lives every hour — much higher than the 0.5 deaths every hour caused by traffic accidents.


In Japan, suicide is recognized as a personal matter and may have contributed to delay the necessary social measures. In 2006, bipartisan legislators finally enacted a basic law to address suicide issue. Following basic law enactment, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in conjunction with National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry started funding to local governments to take suicide-prevention measures.

For example, Arakawa-ward in Tokyo is implementing community based suicide prevention program. The ward trained officer conducted interviews from the people whom family member committed suicide and developed a manual to help people with problems. The ward also started supports for those who survived suicide attempts to obtain public livelihood assistance and find jobs. After initiation of this program, ranking of the suicide as a cause of death changed from ranking 7th to 5th.

Japan Foundation of Neuroscience and Mental Health has recently completed large clinical trial to evaluate community based multi-disciplinary suicide prevention program and is expected to demonstrate the result soon.

It is crucial for everyone to realize factors those can lead to suicide exist everywhere in this society and multifactorial support from the community may provide effective solution.


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3 Responses to “Extraordinary suicide rate in Japan and new hope for saving people’s life”

  1. jayeawatson1 Says:

    This is a very interesting topic. I have read several articles regarding suicide completion and suicide attempts, primarily in men in Japan. It appears that more often than not, suicidal ideation and suicide is closely linked with a fall from public grace, or attributed to possible shame that may fall on a family. Unlike the U.S. where this issue isn’t necessarily viewed as a personal matter, and more associated with a mental health or drug related issue, it appears that the Japanese sometimes look at suicide as almost an “honorable” way out. I definitely would like to see what the results of a community based approach to suicide prevention would yield. This would definitely help to bring this “personal” matter into a more public focus, and maybe help community members to be able to better identify signs that one may display if even contemplating suicide.

  2. htamada2013 Says:

    In current circumstances in Japan, suicide is significantly stigmatized and has been very difficult to widely discuss and share though around suicide prevention. Community based approach will enable people to freely exchange their opinion and will encourage high-risk population to consult at much earlier stage

  3. hkim180 Says:

    This post brings up an extremely important point about an aspect of public health that has not received due recognition until recently. My home country, South Korea, currently ranks first among the OECD nations and second among all nations around the world, for its suicide rate. I am delighted to hear that a recent community based suicide prevention program has been successful in lowering the ranking of suicide as cause of death in Japan. Is there a publicly available report from this intervention program? Thus far, I am disappointed by the lack of studies that examine the root causes of suicide in a broader socioeconomic context. In an encouraging example, a group led by Carles Muntaner has published a series of compelling data to demonstrate a relationship between employment condition and mental health. Employment condition is only one of many social determinants of health, and the authors did not specifically examine the root causes of suicide. However, these studies underscore the importance of examining suicide by dissecting the root causes of suicide as a mental health issue from a broader framework of social determinants of health. As many countries undergo rapid industrialization and face a major epidemiologic transition from infectious diseases to chronic diseases in the current global neoliberalist climate, mental health is likely to emerge as a significant public health concern. Greater efforts need to be directed at investigating the root causes of mental issues such as suicide in a context specific manner.

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