July 28, 2004

Suicide is reaching epidemic proportions in Japan. The rate is one nearly every 15 minutes. Particularly disturbing is the problem in rural areas, where it is said that nearly everyone knows someone who has committed suicide. Very sad.
  • A nation in denial -- amazing, pitiful.
  • I don't think they're in denial so much as desensitizied. The "suicide forest" by Mt. Fuji, for example, has some very matter of fact signs that say, "Please, Do Not Kill Yourself," in the same way national parks have signs saying "Do Not Feed the Bears."
  • This is a problem all over. Norway Australia From the WHO: around the world
  • I just have two questions: 1/ if you find a corpse in the forrest that's totally John Doe...how do they know that the reason for suicide is unemployment? or receding economy? 2/ does the government really have any power to stop people from killing themselves? on the other hand, that must be quite weird to have all these people commiting suicide around you.
  • "you find a corpse in the forrest... Well the obvious answer is "follow him" but you're relating a comments about a general trend to a specific circumstance. The article was citing reasons for the general trend, not reasons for a specific incident. "does the government really have any power..." Just to put it in perspective for you. The suicide rate in Iraq for American combat soldiers is approximately 13 per 100,000 (per year), the suicide rate in Japan is 34 per 100,000 (per year). Something is obviously wrong with some aspect of their culture or mental health services. Here is the strange thing about suicide: Suicide is often thought to be contagious, yes contagious. That's why you NEVER hear about suicides in American local media. (though you will hear about murder-suicides) I'm not quite sure what the basis for this belief is but I remember reading that there was an observed increase in suicide rates in an area after heavy coverage of a suicide.
  • Warrior: In Canada, and probably in most industrialized countries, the coroner has to investigate every suicide case. To determine the causes, they conduct a psychological autopsy, interviewing friends and relatives regarding the behavior of the deceased in the months preceding his death. Sociologists find out about the macro causes of suicide by comparing statistics between countries, regions & groups of people. For instance, they find out that unemployed people commit suicide far more often than employed people, men more often than women, etc. In fact, the most famous work of Durkheim, one of the founders of modern sociology is Suicide, where he explores the social causes of that phenomenon.
  • This is heartbreaking
  • Very sad. I wonder though if it has something to do with societal attitudes towards suicide? My knowledge of Japanese culture is limited, but it's my impression that suicide isn't stigmatized there like it is here. Maybe we would have as high a rate as they do if it weren't so taboo.
  • If we're talking stigmas, my stab in the dark is that it may have more to do with a stigma against getting help. If you feel there's a way out or that someone can help you, and you aren't made to feel broken or weak because of it, you're not as likely to give up. I'm not too well up on Japanese culture either, though, so I may be far off the mark.
  • Wurwilf I totally agree. I firmly believe the stigma about being perceived as weak was a large contributing factor in the suicide of a work acquaintance as mine. When he was initially diagnosed with depression and medicated the doctors wanted to keep him in the hospital as the first two weeks of treatment are usually the riskiest for the patient (due to the meds returning energy levels to normal before relieving the depressed outlook). Unfortunately, he rejected inpatient therapy for his depression as he didn't want anyone to know he was having problems. I have to wonder what the outlook of Japan is towards such perceived "weakness".
  • yes cali, this from an AP story: While suicide carries a stigma in Japan, it traditionally also has been viewed as an honorable way out of a shameful situation.
  • @Testy Cod. Yes suicide is contagious. From what I've read about suicide, the idea is that repeatedly hearing about the suicide of others weakens your doubts and inhibitions. Kind of like a "gee, maybe that could be an answer."
  • Or more like "Gee, I know it's not a great idea, but everyone else is doing it..." Sort of like looting.