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Nearly half of LGBTQ teens in Japan thought about suicide in past year: survey

Mika Yakushi, the representative director of ReBit, which conducted the survey on LGBTQ people, is seen in this photo provided by the organization.

TOKYO -- Many sexual minorities in Japan are experiencing mental suffering, with nearly half of LGBTQ children and young people having thought about suicide in the past year, a recent survey has revealed.

    The survey conducted by Tokyo-based authorized nonprofit organization ReBit also found that one in seven LGBTQ youths aged between 12 and 19 actually attempted to kill themselves in the past year. The latest study unveiled that LGBTQ individuals are hurt in everyday conversations, such as when their parents refer to sexual minorities as "those on that side," and feel isolated as they cannot consult anyone.

    ReBit conducted the online survey between Sept. 4 and 30 on sexual minorities aged between 12 and 34, and analyzed valid responses from 2,623 people.

    The results showed that 40.4% of all respondents thought about suicide over the past year. As many as 48.1% of respondents younger than 20 thought about killing themselves during that same period, while 14% actually attempted suicide and 38.1% self-harmed. All of these rates were higher than those of respondents in their 20s and 30s.

    Roughly a half, or 52.5%, of all respondents experienced ill health or mental disorders over the past year, while 56.1% of respondents under 20 felt psychological distress on par with mood disorders or anxiety disorders over the past month. Nearly 50% of respondents in their 20s and 30s also felt distress.

    The survey results also highlighted a lack of a sense of security among respondents at home and school.

    Altogether, 91.6% said that they could not talk about their sexuality to their guardians. Meanwhile, 89.1% experienced difficulties such as their parents making negative remarks or showing negative behavior toward LGBTQ people.

    When asked about their school life in the past year, 70.7% of junior high, senior high and university students said they had had unpleasant experiences, including other students making fun of LGBTQ people. As many as 33.6% of students went through negative experiences caused by school staff and teachers making similar remarks or engaging in similar behavior. Among respondents younger than 20, 52.4% felt reluctant to go to school during the past year, and most of them felt they could not talk about their sexuality to their teachers or school staff at ease.

    Some respondents also wrote at length about their experiences and trouble in the free description section of the survey.

    A 31-year-old man wrote: "I developed a mental disorder when I was in high school after I battled daily against the fear of derogatory words (referring to gay people) being hurled at me, and I was exhausted. I had no choice but to quit high school."

    An 18-year-old respondent wrote: "Every time my parents asked me, 'You're not on that side, are you?' I suffered pain when I laughed and lied, 'That's impossible.' Even at home, I can't be myself."

    ReBit compared its survey results with other surveys on residents across Japan conducted by the Nippon Foundation, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and other groups. The Nippon Foundation's 2021 survey revealed that 12.7% of people aged between 10 and 19 had thought about suicide in the past year, and 3.5% had attempted it. LGBTQ children's suicide risk is far above the national average.

    ReBit staff member Mami Ishikura, who responds to a wide variety of consultations, is seen in this photo provided by the organization.

    Mika Yakushi, the representative director of ReBit, commented, "People tend to think the circumstances surrounding LGBTQ people are improving, but their situations still remain grave. It is necessary for the central and local governments to steadily incorporate support for sexual minorities in measures against suicide and other issues and work to resolve challenges at schools, homes and workplaces, respectively."

    (Japanese original by Miyuki Fujisawa, Digital News Center)

    -- 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.-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:

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

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