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News on Japanese actor's death may have triggered troubled people to take own lives: report


TOKYO -- A suicide prevention center authorized by the Japanese health minister has claimed in an interim report that news coverage on the suspected suicide of a young actor is likely to have triggered individuals who had originally been distressed over their lives and employment amid the coronavirus pandemic to kill themselves.

    The interim report issued by the Japan Suicide Countermeasures Promotion Center stated that reporting on the actor's death may be a factor behind members of the public taking their own lives, which began increasing in July compared to the previous year. The center is set to compile a final report in March next year.

    According to the National Police Agency, the number of suicides in Japan in July was 1,818, up 25 from the same month last year. The figure for the month of August was 1,854 -- up 251 compared to the same period in 2019 -- while that of September was 1,805, seeing an increase by 143 cases from last year.

    The center analyzed trends by using statistics and search engine data recorded through the end of August. The findings showed that the number of suicides tended to particularly increase during the one week following July 18, when the famous actor's suspected suicide was reported. Following the coverage, consultation centers apparently received calls for help such as, "I feel shaken and scared. I might also end up taking my own life," and "Watching the news brought forth feelings of wanting to die."

    An increase in suicides among women from a wide range of generations have stood out since July. The center found that suicide death rates for women who lived with others or were unemployed rose from last year after conducting research on relations between suicide and factors of gender, employment, and whether the individual lived alone or with others. As for the reason behind the increased rates, the center commented, "There seems to be financial problems and livelihood issues, as well as domestic violence and concerns over childrearing, and it is possible that such problems are being aggravated due to the coronavirus."

    Furthermore, suicide figures increased among female high school students in August. There have been voices on social media, saying, "I'm having a hard time fitting in with my new classmates," and "My mother is always at home (due to the coronavirus) and she vents her frustration and stress onto me." It is possible that students are carrying problems on their own.

    Yasuyuki Shimizu, representative director of the center, said, "The number of suicide cases may well continue to increase. We'd like individuals who feel distressed to confide in those around them and reach out to consultation centers."

    (Japanese original by Takuya Murata, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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