For the first time in 11 years, Japan’s suicide rate increased. The country calculates the rate of suicides every month and statistics showed that in 2020, the suicide rate in women went up a disturbing 15%.
According to BBC News, the suicide rate among men decreased slightly. Shockingly, last October, the female suicide rate soared 70% higher compared to the same month the previous year.
Japan used to have the highest suicide rate in the developed world but managed to slash it by a third over the past 10 years, says BBC News. The current rise in suicide rates, especially among young women, is disturbing and experts say that COVID-19 has played several roles in the upsurge.
Professor Michiko Uedo, associate professor in the faculty of political science and economics at Waseda University in Tokyo, says that the COVID-19 pandemic struck women harder because they are more likely to be employed in jobs such as tourism, retail, and the food industry.
Another reason is that many young women who are victims of domestic and sexual abuse found themselves with nowhere to go during COVID-19 lockdowns. Forty-year-old Jun Tachibana founded the Bond Project to help women contemplating suicide find a safe harbor.
“When girls are in real trouble and pain, they really don’t know what to do,” she tells BBC News, adding that many come to her in deep emotional pain and hopelessness.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. A disturbing study published in December found that the mental health of nurses is in danger because of the stress and strain of caring for COVID-19 patients. The study revealed that nurses are increasingly using guns to complete suicide after trying other methods of ending their lives that were not successful. It has been speculated for years that women nurses are at higher risk of dying from suicide than other women, which the study confirmed.
While data shows that deaths by suicide in the U.S. have not risen, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study that found more than 40% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, and 10% seriously considered suicide, according to The New York Times.
Professor Uedo tells BBC News that she is concerned that if Japan, which has had relatively few COVID-19 deaths, is experiencing a rise in female suicides, will other countries follow suit?
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