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90% of troubled young women in Japan affected by pandemic changes: survey

Members of staff at the nonprofit organization Bond Project are seen taking calls for consultations in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on July 4, 2020, in this partially modified image. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- Around 90% of troubled young women between the ages of 10 and 29 surveyed by a nonprofit organization have reported experiencing negative effects to their physical or mental health as a result of having to stay indoors or shortened working hours due to coronavirus prevention measures.

    The Tokyo-based Bond Project canvassed around 1,000 young women experiencing difficulties living, and found that of the about 90% of respondents reporting physical or mental effects, nearly 70% had said they had thought about wanting to disappear or killing themselves.

    Women between the ages of 10 and 29 who have nowhere to feel secure at home and have concerns about their relationships with friends and family are registered on the organization's official Line consultation app. In June, after the state of emergency declaration was lifted, Bond Project sent out its survey, to which 950 people responded.

    It asked multiple choice questions regarding whether people have been affected by calls to stay home and reduce working hours as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the 96% of respondents that said they had been affected, the most common answer, given by 75% of those surveyed, was that their "worries have increased" as a result. In all, 69% said they had thought that they wanted to disappear or kill themselves, 61% said they felt lonely, 52% reported being unable to sleep, and 36% said they were self-harming more.

    In a section where respondents could write freely about their situations, one wrote about how it had led to her changes in behavior, saying, "I've started self-harming again from worry due to reduced income and stress being at home." Another respondent wrote, "When I thought about school reopening I felt so worried and upset that I wanted to kill myself," underscoring the serious effects caused by the new normal of staying home all day.

    In response to questions about financial and living changes, 61% said that they have worries about them. Additionally, 25% said that "because the places I normally go to were closed, I had nowhere to go." Some said consultation setups like school nurse's rooms and counselors are necessary even when schools are temporarily closed.

    The Bond Project said in its analysis that, "With the closures of places other than home, like places people feel they belong to and schools, locations offering consultations or support have been reduced, which is pushing people into greater difficulty."

    According to the organization, it received 1,572 consultations in March when infections of the coronavirus began to spread across Japan, rising to 2,021 consultations in July. Many respondents mentioned that there are few places for single women aged 18 and over to go and talk to people, and many called for an expansion in services.

    Jun Tachibana, the organization's representative, said, "There are distressed young people across the country. We want the central and municipal governments to improve their support networks."

    (Japanese original by Hitomi Tanimoto, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

    * * *

    -- Suicide prevention hotline in Japan with English support

    TELL Japan (English): https://telljp.com/

    Telephone hotline: 03-5774-0992 (Daily)

    Online chat: https://telljp.com/lifeline/tell-chat/

    Counseling inquiries: 03-4550-1146 (Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.)

    A selection of emergency numbers with multilingual support is also provided at the bottom of their home page.

    *Operating hours for the telephone hotline and online chat depend on the day and are subject to change. Check the Facebook page linked below for up-to-date information:

    https://www.facebook.com/telljapan/

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