Koki Ozora, who founded nonprofit Anata no Ibasho, speaks to a woman who would like to help on October 2, 2020 in his office in Tokyo, Japan. Hiro Komae/AP Photos
More people died from suicide in Japan in October than the total number of COVID-19 deaths in 2020, figures released by the Japanese National Police Agency show.
The suicide rate rose to 2,153 in October from 1,805 in September, while the number of COVID-19 deaths reached 1,765 by the end of the month, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
There was also an increase in the number of suicides recorded over the past four months compared to 2019, the Ministry figures show.
In March, 21-year-old student Koki Ozora set up the Japanese online counseling site, Anata no Ibasho and told Insider: “Anata no Ibasho means ‘A Place for You’ so I wanted to tell people that even if you are lonely at school, work or home, there is a place for you with us.”
He said that he grew up lonely and depressed, and a high school teacher was the first adult he could trust, adding: “Without him, I wouldn’t even be around today. It was a miracle I came across him, so I want to offer that miracle to others.”
There are now 700 volunteers involved, many of whom live abroad in different time zones and can provide counseling between 10pm and dawn, when the need for suicide prevention runs highest.
The most common calls are from people with suicidal thoughts, while others report stress and anxiety, Ozora added.
Although Japan has declared a state of emergency, lockdown has never been imposed, but record COVID-19 deaths mean it might be.
Experts are concerned about how this could impact mental health, especially that of women who have been disproportionately affected this year, with an 83% rise in suicide cases to 851, compared to a 22% male increase to 1302.
Ozora said: “There are several potential reasons for this. Women make up a larger percentage of part-time workers in the hotel, foodservice and retail industries – where layoffs have been deep.
“In addition, a succession of Japanese celebrities who had many female fans have taken their lives in recent months.
“While the Japanese media rarely details the specifics of such deaths – deliberately not dwelling on method or motive – the mere reporting on these cases often causes an increase in suicide in the general public.”
Japan has the highest suicide rate in the G7 and subsequently reports its data every month compared to other countries, including the US, the latest national data collected in 2018.
However, suicides decreased and fell by 4% to 19,959 in 2019, the lowest amount since records began in 1978, CNN reported.
Following the financial crisis of the 90s, Japan’s suicide rate hit a record high in 2003 when 34,427 people took their own lives.
In response, the Japanese government decided to introduce the Basic Act for Suicide Prevention in 2006, CNN added
Pandemic stress and the rise in suicidal urges is not only a problem in Japan. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 10 people had considered suicide in the past month, twice the rate from 2018.
The British Journal of Psychiatry also found that suicidal thoughts had increased during the first six weeks of lockdown in the UK.
Read the original article on Insider