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News Navigator: Is the suicide rate for young people really the highest?

Young people who take their own lives or have attempted to do so have become a widely discussed topic in Japan recently. The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about the suicide rate among young people in Japan.

Question: Of all the people in Japan who take their own lives, how many are young people?

Answer: Looking at the actual data, more middle-aged people than young people die by suicide. The number of men in their 40s and 50s is particularly high, making up one-fourth of the total 24,025 cases in 2015. However, the number for this age group has decreased by half over the last 10 years. On the other hand, 4,017 people in their 20s or younger took their lives in 2005, and 2,906 people in 2015. However, when compared with the overall decreasing birthrate in Japan, the suicide rate has really only fallen slightly for the age group.

Q: How did this age gap emerge?

A: Regarding those in the middle-age group, the implementation of mental health care measures and advancements in aid for people burdened by multiple debts under the Basic Act on Suicide Prevention, which came into force in 2006, seems to have succeeded. There was not as much focus on countermeasures targeting young people, but recent research has found that the age group has a higher risk of suicide than other age groups. This came partly from the results of a survey of 40,000 adults conducted by The Nippon Foundation. The survey estimated the number of people in their 20s who had seriously contemplated taking their own life or had made an attempt within the last year was higher than any other age group.

Q: What can be done about this?

A: Not only stressing the preciousness of life, but also working on building feelings of self-affirmation and expanding ways for asking and receiving help are important. Last December, various NPOs and other groups formed the "Japan Youth Suicide Prevention Network," and support from other private groups is gradually expanding.

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