GKB47 suicide prevention slogan inspired by AKB48 criticized

GKB47 suicide prevention slogan inspired by AKB48 criticized A poster for the suicide prevention campaign.

TOKYO —

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has come under fire for using a catchphrase in an anti-suicide campaign that evokes images of popular all-girl group AKB48.

During discussions in the Diet on Monday, a DPJ member called the anti-suicide slogan “deeply inappropriate,” TBS reported.

The catchphrase, which was unveiled last month, has already been criticized by mental health professionals, as well as members of both the DPJ and opposition parties for the way in which it apparently handles the issue of suicide, while simultaneously leveraging the popularity of AKB48.

In Japanese, the slogan reads “Anata mo GKB47 sengen!” (“Declare yourself part of GKB47!”). The acronym GK is short for “gatekeeper,” which in Japan is used to refer to a person who recognizes symptoms of depression in someone else and recommends that they seek treatment, while the B stands for “basic,” which is reportedly an attempt to imply that suicide prevention is everybody’s duty and requires no specialist training.

The 47 refers to the country’s 47 prefectures.

DPJ member Daigo Matsuura brought a poster of the slogan into the Diet and criticized it for trivializing such a serious issue with its “utterly improper” use of the AKB48 brand, TBS reported.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also expressed misgivings, during a question-and-answer session. “To speak plainly, I too felt uncomfortable. I think I’d like to see further research conducted on the matter,” he said, according to TBS.

Deputy Prime Katsuya Okada admitted that the DPJ should have asked more party members how they felt about it. He told reporters Tuesday night that he will order the slogan withdrawn.

In 2011, the number of people who committed suicide in Japan was 30,513, surpassing 30,000 for the 14th straight year, according to the health ministry.

Japan Today

  • 2

    NetNinja

    Bwahahahahha everybody in my office is laughing. I can't keep them away from my computer.

    FAIL!!!!

    This is really half-baked. In tune for a sequel to Dumb and Dumber.

    The only resource I know of that offers any help in this country is T.E.L.L Tokyo English Life Line?? Is that correct?

    Okay J-Govt. Keep trying though. Don't kill yourself trying to get it right though.

  • 2

    smithinjapan

    “To speak plainly, I too felt uncomfortable. I think I’d like to see further research conducted on the matter,”

    Here's an idea -- you feel uncomfortable, right? You're PM, right? You know this is a disgusting campaign, right? So why bother waiting for MORE RESEARCH?!? Can the stupid campaign now and demand people get serious!!

    Leave it to Japan to take a very serious issue in which they are completely lacking in support services and try to link it to some kitschy cartoon character, or in this case, the flavour of the month girl band! No wonder people can't get real help here, and why the rate continues to be over 30,000 people per year -- they're issues are dealt with by intentional promotion of sleezy pop-culture.

  • 0

    soldave

    Not gonna be a success; no teenage girl giving the fisting "ganbarre" sign, in sight.

  • 2

    smithinjapan

    I'm just surprised they didn't get an AKB48 member to don a ribbon and be the GKB47 'ambassador'.

  • 0

    Serrano

    The "gatekeeper" part is pretty dumb.
    A person who recognizes symptoms of depression in others is a gatekeeper, eh?

  • 0

    patty cake champion

    GKB is an anagram of KGB right?

  • 3

    nsg79

    @ NetNinja, TELL is the lifeline in Japan that provides its service exclusively in English. There are Japanese lifelines through Inochi no Denwa (about 50 I believe) out there serving the local population.

    On the article specifically, this is a totally ridiculous campaign but I especially loved the part about 'requiring more research' a typical politician's response which means absolutely nothing.

  • 2

    paulinusa

    Why is it offensive to promote an anti-suicide message that Japan badly needs?

  • 4

    Godan

    This bastardization of the English language drives me nuts. "KGB47" would make more sense to me.

  • 0

    Disillusioned

    Well, at least there are no childish cartoon characters or teenage girl mascots or cute and fluffy kittens in this campaign. However, they have still missed the point terribly! They are virtually stating, it is up to everyone else to detect symptoms of depression, which is difficult considering 60% of the population has it!

  • 1

    RowanM

    @paulinusa Well for one thing, it's almost making a mockery of the seriousness of the problem by connecting it to a (sexualized, fetishistic) young perky girl band.
    And then they're calling the Japanese stupid by giving it some BS about bad English (GateKeeper Basic wtf?) and 47 prefectures. And if you really want to look into it, there's the fact that 47 is one less person than 48 (which is how I took it before I read the 47 prefectures BS).

    So it's something that Japan needs, and they tried, but they did an awful job of it. It would have been much better if they hadn't ever said the abbreviation GKB47.

  • 1

    Laguna

    Rowan, had you heard of GateKeeper previously? I hadn't. Years ago, a person dear to me offed himself, and to this day I feel guilt that I didn't do anything about it. I still no nothing of GateKeeper, but if this slogan is successful in publicizing an effective way for those seeking help for others to find it, it will be quite worth it - however juvenile some might find it.

  • 3

    gyouza

    It was a krap attempt but the theory is not completely off - the campaign needs a "hook" in order to make people sit up and pay attention. Some people point to organisations like TELL and others as if they are the "official" sites for people who want to commit suicide. By that time it may be too late and in many cases, a colleague, friend, or family member can help IF they know what to look for and IF they actually look.

    Hope they come back with somethnig quick, and bear in mind the opposition are going pour cold water on anything.

  • 4

    paulinusa

    And however lame the slogan is, this has probably raised more awareness than a "serious" campaign. People in Japan need to talk more about the issue of suicide, period.

  • 0

    Ewan Huzarmy

    Catchphrases and slogans don't help. When will someone in power actually do something useful ?

    I can see a better use for this acronym ; Get Killed By 47 angry JT posters.

  • 1

    gyouza

    And however lame the slogan is, this has probably raised more awareness than a "serious" campaign. People in Japan need to talk more about the issue of suicide, period.

    You might be right!

  • 0

    some14some

    GKB47 AKB48...looks gochagocha (Jumble)...wish this subject (suicide) is taken more seriously when half a million lives are lost in 14 years.

  • 4

    MaboDofuIsSpicy

    What abut WD-40 and the copy cat one the Japanese have. Does the PM feel uncomfortable with that copyright infringement?

  • 0

    Sarcasm321

    I don't get it... might as well be written in Greek :-(

  • 0

    The_True

    What abut WD-40 and the copy cat one the Japanese have. Does the PM feel uncomfortable with that copyright infringement?

    hahahahaha...

  • 3

    CrazyJoe

    I thought GKB47 stood for GoKiBuri (cockroach). It's like saying cockroaches should die. This is not right.

    • Moderator

      GKB stands for Gatekeeper Basic.

  • 1

    cactusJack

    I bet Ticket Pia was hit with a lot of calls like this: "Where can I get tickets to the GKB47 show?"

  • 1

    NetNinja

    As a silly young man in junior high I often had such weird questions. Questions that were often passed on to someone for lack of a good answer.

    I asked "Why was suicide illegal?" The bible says it's wrong but why would someone be arrested for trying to kill oneself? Doesn't' that defeat the purpose of trying to help them? I asked my mother who told me to ask my father. When he got home he was tired so he told me to ask my mother again. She suggested I ask my homeroom teacher. She told me to come back after school. I came back after school and she told me to go see the Principal. I got nervous and went to the Principal's office.

    He's like "Son, are you okay?" "Are you feeling sad about life?" *He gave me the ol couch treatment. I just want to know why it's ILLEGAL? Well, he's a pretty honest guy. He told me the truth. (I expected the religion answer)

    Principal: "Well, you can't kill yourself because you're a taxpayer". "If you try to kill yourself, it's like taking money from the government"

    His answer was perfect!! It all made sense for me!! Everything was crystal clear after that day. It doesn't matter if nobody likes you or not. Nobody stops to ask if you are having a bad day but if you try to take your life SOCIETY in some way loses money. I'm worth money. Everybody is worth money. So consider your life valuable!!

    This has been a public service announcement from yours truly. I approve this message. GKB47

  • 1

    Noripinhead

    "Gatekeeper"???- totally bizarre and creepy sounding. Do they want to alienate people even more? I can see how this came about: a bunch of old fogies were sitting in a room and thought, "How can we attract young people? Oh right! AKB48. That's the ticket! Any catch phrase that sounds like AKB48 will work wonders!"

    The people who thought of this idea were obviously part of GBTDB48: Go Back To the Drawing Board 48! Absolutely brilliant - not!

  • 2

    sasukene

    What else to expect from the J Government? Made by Oji-sans for other Oji-sans.

  • 2

    Sarcasm321

    The people who thought this tortured acronym up should join the following program, GTIRASAP48

    Get Thee Into Retirement ASAP 48

  • 1

    BurakuminDes

    Suicide is an epidemic in Japan, as are mental health issues - but I'm just not entirely convinced this new program is the best way to address these problems. At least it does have people talking though - and admitting that Japan has an enormous problem.

  • 0

    Foxie

    I think it is hilarious. Keep them coming!

  • 0

    yagura

    The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding. --- Albert Camus

    Why not try to get groups like AKB48, pop idols, talento, pro athletes, etc., etc. more directly involved in something important like this instead of just indirectly (sneakily) trying to leverage on their popularity and "trick" people into paying attention? Why not just have one of those 24-hour TV shows devoted to something like this? Why not some PSAs?

    I would imagine that some of them would be interested in being able to give back to Japan in such a way.

  • 2

    tokyokawasaki

    Just goes to prove yet again, that far too many clueless morons have positions of power or influence in this country...

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    Paulinusa: "Why is it offensive to promote an anti-suicide message that Japan badly needs?"

    It's not -- the problem is they're less addressing the issue of suicide than they are using the popularity of a talentless band to make the whole issue into a joke. Yes, people need to talk about it, but I don't think people being upset by the promotion (and here in the article even the PM is uncomfortable with it) is what I would call constructive dialogue.

    And what's more, 'gatekeeper (basic)' is a horrible name for the role people are supposed to play here. Don't they know that in most fields the term is applied to it refers to someone who can loosen or restrict control? release information or choose to hold it back? or very literally keep someone out or bar them in? It's pretty clear they started with the idea of linking suicide prevention with AKB48 (don't ask me the logic there!) and worked 'up' from there.

    Idiot #1: Oh! I know! I'm a middle-aged man, like many who commit suicide, and I love AKB48.

    Idiot #2: Yes?

    Idiot #1: You cannot deny their popularity and good looks! So, let's think of a name for this campaign that is like AKB48.

    Idiot #3: How about AK-47?

    Idiot #1: Excellent! Oh... but we need another letter. Hmmm.

    Idiot #2: Let me look up something on my computer... ah darn... the Gatekeeper Basic security software is scanning again... going to take up all my RAM. Wait! How about RAM48!

    Idiot #3: 'gatekeeper', ne? Someone who protects your internal software.... that's a good idea. How about GK... no wait, add the 'basic', GKB48... but what's the 48 for... Hmmm...

    Idiot #1: Let's change 48 to 47 and maybe someone will find some significance there later!

    I #2/3: Yosha!! It is decided!! "I want yooooooooouuuu... I need yooooouuuu!"

    Was the decision process something like that?

  • -1

    ka_chan

    I think the earlier point was that GK can not be an mean gatekeeper in English. Gatekeeper Basic sounds more like a suicide promotion than prevention. Seems to imply a controller to hell or heaven. As for the article, why ask members of the party, PM. Shouldn't you ask members of the Mental Health community? Or does the party know better?
    As for AKB48, I like them. At least AKB is for Akihabara and 48 are for the 48 girls. Since Akihabara is a Japanese word, they can shorten it any way they like.

  • 1

    Johannes Weber

    If it helps to bring people to think about suicide prevention instead of the simple Japanese SHOGANAI attitude, this campaign is worth the effort - no matter how tasteless, juvenile and stupid it is. Force the sheeple to open their eyes - and Japan will gradually become a better place. Even though reason and the desire for freedom have failed at changing Japanese society for the better, if a stupid slogan can help - so be it. And it is certainly important that Japaneses people become more aware of their surroundings...

  • 2

    Aqualung

    Props. I wouldn't care if the slogan was pickachu wants you to live.

  • 1

    deepstar6

    GKB47, AKB48, SKE48...what the...

    Something is seriously wrong here.

  • 5

    dolphingirl

    Inappropriate and useless. The government is telling their society that it is everybody's responsibility to recognize a depressed and possibly suicidal person and get them to seek help. When you spread responsibility like this, everyone ends up doing nothing because they think someone else will do it. And the average person is not trained to diagnose depression anyway. Did they even think to ask medical professionals how to develop an effective campaign for such a sensitive issue?

  • 2

    codomo

    OMG, this is not that funny story... im scared about Japan has been controlled by such morons. obviously those ossan thought nothing for preventing suicide.

  • 1

    avigator

    Tokyo Kawasaki, I could not agree anymore with you. Will be traveling through both locations tomorrow. It reinforces my belief that I am living in Lala Land.

  • 1

    Kami Hiratsuka

    At a glance I thought just sucks. But even if it's kind of "fashion" thing it may help for the people, might be. Anyway this kind of "on fashion" things especially for serious issue, is not welcomed. How can people feel good about it who's in depression? They never want a treatment "on fasion" but people who really loves AKB

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    dolphingirl: "The government is telling their society that it is everybody's responsibility to recognize a depressed and possibly suicidal person and get them to seek help."

    This is nothing new. The government always fobs off responsibility on the people for what it should be actively engaging in and working on itself. The worst part of it is if you tried to phone in somewhere and say you know someone potentially suicidal nothing would be done about it... until after the person commits suicide, at which point they would ask why you did nothing about it.

  • -1

    JapanGal

    Suicide is a proud way to exit and looked up upon in many cultures in the past. The reason why is they did not have trains back then.

    I think suicide should be legalized.

  • -1

    Ash 'Vanguard' Baker

    i think its a good idea, if they use something popular like AKB to promote then so be it, at least it gets people talking and therefore learning.

  • 0

    Andrew Grimes

    Gyouza and BaruminDes, with you and all the many thoughtful and concerned comments here on the seriousness of this topic of suicide prevention.

    Also there are professional support services in Japan. For example (in Japanese): http://www.jsccp.jp/center/tel.php http://www.jsccp.jp/near/

    There are mental health experts who the gov't could have consulted, not so far away from their offices either (English): http://www.ncnp.go.jp/nimh/english/j_yobou.html

    The Associated Press has written some well researched articles on suicide prevention and support for people suffering from depression. For example: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=13808067#.TzEr60wjGqc

    Also with resources and information about depression and suicide http://tokyocounseling.com/english/media/suicidejapan.html

  • 0

    vinnyfav

    I'm highly amused at the posters who take offense to the AKB48 brand being used as part of the promotional material for this campaign. Firstly, putting aside all the subjective comments about the girl band being "sleezy" and "talentless", it remains pretty much fact that AKB48 is part of the pop culture of Japan. However much your personal dislike for girlbands and idol-worship, ANY campaign tied to their brand name (officially or unofficially) has the potential to reach a great deal of people, over a wide range of the demographic.

    This is not taking into account the very people who harbour dislike for such girlbands. These haters and what nots will almost certainly hear of it, and harp on about it, spreading the word to non-fans.

    AKB48 is but one example of foisting official campaigns on pop culture and other similar phenomena. Any other wildly popular group, band or actor will do. This is also the underlying rationale behind advertisements which commision popular or famous celebrities (Tiger Woods and Tag Heuer, David Beckham and H&M etc). The objections to the inappropriate nature of such a tie-in is valid, of course. But you cannot fault the pragmatism behind the reference. There are few other ways of spreading a campaign faster than via pop culture, and if the suicide problem in Japan faces lack of discussion as its biggest factor, then this is nothing short of a genius stroke to get people talking.

    You could even venture so far as to say that the government's response has been tailor made to provide maximum exposure to the issue. Going so far as to make inane comments about how it is inappropriate and urging "further research" is perfect to give the media sharks the attention they need to spread the word, and at the same time buying time for the campaign to not get scrapped out of hand.

    Lastly, to all those who are taking umbrage at the "Gatekeeper" part of the naming, do a google search on the keywords "gatekeeper" and "suicide". The term did not originate from this fiasco, it originated from (lo and behold) a suicide prevention program in the US. I think this is an important lesson learnt about doing some basic background research before criticising others' bad english.

  • 1

    Fadamor

    If you want to combat the teen suicide problem, you'll need to address the bullying culture that has entrenched itself in the schools. Not just bullying by other students, but bullying by teachers as well. I'm not saying teachers should be all "happy happy joy joy" in the classroom, but you can get discipline established in a classroom without emotionally reducing a student to a pile of sheep dung.

    Adult suicides are going to be a bit tougher to tackle. Some of it appears to be related to the economy and some appears to be related to horrific working hours - driving the life out of the salaryman before he actually decides to finish it himself. (Or maybe THAT is because of the economy too?)

  • 1

    The_True

    @vinnyfav after looking at your avatar i didn't even read your post. you know what, i was the one who give you the thumb down.

  • 0

    Husain Alamri

    I'm no culturalogy expert but this makes Japan come off as culturally bankrupt.

  • 2

    YuriOtani

    As long as Depression is considered by the majority to be a "weakness" instead of a disease, there is going to be an ever increasing amount of people killing themselves. The government and society needs to come up with other things people can do instead of the Permanent solution for a temporary problem.

  • -1

    Ewan Huzarmy

    Now let's tackle teen-age pregnancy with the campaign BIO48 Bun-in-oven 48 being the age of the sugar-daddy manager/ talent scout.

  • -1

    DoLittleBeLate

    Great. And when all of Japan is seeking help, what then? Because they are not going to find any!

    Taking care of mental illnesses is far more expensive than hosing down the train wheels. And Japan would have to rely on #gasp!# foreign know-how in training the tens of thousands of therapeutists desperately needed.

    Ain't gonna happen. Shouganai.

  • -1

    ReformedBasher

    The clueless people are the ones who can't see that the connection with the girl's band is not important. The campaign to raise awareness and potentially save lives is.

  • 0

    ReformedBasher

    @ The_True

    @vinnyfav after looking at your avatar i didn't even read your post. you know what, i was the one who give you the thumb down.

    vinnyfav seems to write some sensible posts. Your reaction to vinnyfav's avatar was give a thumbs down because it's chidish? Have a good long think about this. If you don't understand why, look up "irony" on Google.

  • 0

    ojiiu812badboy

    @vinnyfav...sweet!
    I'm old school re: girl bands, i.e. SPEED & MAX, etc. and nothing against "girl bands". Got more tired of the avalanche of "boy bands" that hit my generation. I think there are handfuls of J-pop artists who can give compelling testimony to troubles, struggles, failures, sexism, and success after contemplating suicide. The target audience needs to understand that the thought of suicide is not such a rarity, however that thought/feeling of despair, not addressed by family, friends, or loved-ones (so called gate keeper), the victims never make to care and consequently and VERY SADLY another statistic.. Some of this may be due to cultural acceptability as in @JapanGal or apathy. Who am I to judge? Japan needs to keep it simple!** DON'T KEEP THE DEADLY SECRET!** Have every artist, athlete, newscaster, talento, etc. submit, voluntarily. Sometimes acronyms don't mean feces when it comes to saving lives.

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