Japan seeks to solve suicide problem

Japan will launch a nationwide study into suicide and provide more counselors and support services across the country as the government attempts to combat what it describes as an alarming rise in suicides.

The number of suicides in Japan hit 32,325 in 2004, the seventh straight year the figure has topped 30,000, according to National Police Agency records. The government hopes to reduce that by 5,000 by 2015, said Manabu Sumi, an official of the Mental Health and Welfare Division with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Sumi said authorities will closely examine suicide ratios, motives and methods, and determine whether mental illnesses such as depression are the most likely behind the rise in suicides. They will also seek to develop treatment methods for people with such illnesses.

Computer software restricting access to suicide-related Web sites will also be distributed free to families across Japan, Sumi said. Last year, 55 people in 19 groups committed suicide after meeting on the Web, up from 34 deaths in 12 groups in 2003, according to police figures. Similar figures for 2005 will be available next year.

The government will also increase the number of counselors at schools and offer counseling to parents, as well as improve counseling at public health centers and establish a nationwide system to help those in financial trouble.

Health problems are blamed for most reported suicides, but there has been a growing number of suicides related to economic troubles.

While Japan's economy recently has shown some signs of growth, 15 years of stagnation has forced many people into bankruptcy or unemployment, the AP reports.


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