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Suicides in Yamanashi Pref. west of Tokyo surge as officials face growing crisis

The Yamanashi Prefectural Government headquarters (Mainichi/Kenji Noro)

KOFU -- The number of suicides in Yamanashi Prefecture west of Tokyo in the January-May period of 2021 increased sharply to 68, up 21, or 44.7%, from the same period last year, and the prefectural government is facing a growing sense of crisis.

    It seems that the prolonged coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on people's lives and their living environment, including the worsening economy and rising unemployment rate.

    According to the prefectural government, the 68 suicides between January and May included 50 males, up 16 from the same period last year, and 18 females, a rise of five. The increase was particularly noticeable among males in their 20s, up nine, and males in their 60s, up six. By occupation, "unemployed" accounted for the largest number of suicides with 39, a rise of 14, followed by "employed/employee" at 20, up six, and "student" at five, which was zero in the previous period.

    The motives and causes of the suicides are said to be complex, but the prefectural government has pointed out the possibility that the prolonged coronavirus pandemic may have influenced health and work-related problems.

    Concerns about the effects of the pandemic had already emerged following the growing number of suicides in Yamanashi Prefecture during 2020. The total number of suicides for the whole year in the prefecture was 129, the first time in 43 years since 1977 that the number was below 130, but by month, the number of suicides rose remarkably in the second half of the year, from 48 in January to June to 81 in July to December, when the effects of the pandemic began to linger on. This was apparently a different phenomenon from previous years.

    Citing the case of a male student in his 20s who became pessimistic about his future due to failed job-hunting attempts, fell into a state of depression, and took his own life, the prefectural official pointed out that it is important to reduce the factors that lead to depression. Also, the reason for the increase "could be due to the impact of celebrity suicides," the official said.

    In accordance with the suicide prevention promotion plan, the prefectural government has posted advertisements on internet search sites and elsewhere, directing people to consultation counters such as the nationwide mental health consultation service and to websites that introduce information on suicide prevention.

    The prefectural government commented, "The working-age generation is more susceptible to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their working environment, and we want to effectively connect people with anxiety and worries to counseling services."

    Although street campaigns and public awareness activities will continue to be suspended or restricted due to the pandemic, Yamanashi Prefecture will continue to provide suicide prevention training to school teachers and prefectural employees.

    -- Suicide prevention hotline in Japan with English support

    TELL Japan (English):

    Telephone hotline: 03-5774-0992 (Daily)

    Online chat:

    Counseling inquiries: 03-4550-1146 (Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 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:

    (Japanese original by Keisuke Umeda, Kofu Bureau)

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