Japan has appointed a “Minister of Loneliness” after an increase in suicide rates for the first time in 11 years. This move can be seen as Japan combating to reduce the loneliness and social isolation among its residents.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto as the Minister of Loneliness after an increase in suicide rates among Japanese citizens.
In 2020, for the first time in 11 years, suicide rates in Japan went up. Most surprising, while male suicides fell slightly, rates among women surged nearly 15%, according to a BBC report.
Sakamoto later told reporters, “I hope to promote activities that prevent loneliness and social isolation and protect the ties between people.’’
Japanese women, in particular, have been struggling with depression since the coronavirus pandemic began about a year ago — with nearly 880 female suicide victims in the country alone in October, a 70 percent increase over the year before
“Women especially are feeling more isolated and face increasing suicide rates,” Suga said at a meeting announcing the new post earlier this month, according to Nikkei Asia.
Japanese suicide expert Michiko Ueda told the BBC that part of the problem involves an increasing number of single women in the country who don’t have stable employment.
“A lot of women are not married anymore,” she said. “They have to support their own lives, and they don’t have permanent jobs.
So, when something happens [such as the pandemic], of course, they are hit very, very hard.”
‘Isolation led to more suicide rates in Japan’
“Before the pandemic, the typical day for those living alone in urban cities would have looked like this: They work from morning to night, grab a few after-work drinks or dine out with friends and then commute back home,’’ Manjo Shimahara, head of the think tank, told the Japan Times.
“The only place where they buy groceries is perhaps a nearby convenience store, where they barely speak with anyone.
“To them, the home was simply where they would return from work to sleep.’’
“The coronavirus pandemic, I think, has driven home to many singles the reality of how they don’t know anyone in their neighborhoods or have any local bars they can call their stomping grounds,’’ Shimahara said.
The United Kingdom was the first country to appoint a loneliness minister in 2018 after a 2017 report found that more than nine million people in the UK said they often or always felt lonely.