If Japan is going to stem the tide of suicides, it has to begin with changing perceptions about suicide. That is, suicide should be dealt with as a social problem, not as a way to save face.

Hisao Sato who started a suicide prevention program in 2002 in Akita, which has one of the highest suicide rates in Japan. (Christian Science Monitor)

  • 5

    JeffLee

    An easier and more effective measure would be to put teeth into labor laws, preventing Japanese employers from making the lives of their workers so miserable. No more 10-12 hours a day shifts for rank-and-file staff, give sick days, leaves of absence, paternity leave, etc.

  • 3

    LiveInTokyo

    An easier and more effective measure would be to put teeth into labor laws, preventing Japanese employers from making the lives of their workers so miserable. No more 10-12 hours a day shifts for rank-and-file staff, give sick days, leaves of absence, paternity leave, etc.

    Thoroughly agree JeffLee. However, there has to be a little more. Companies and bosses will continue to take advantage of their employees unless the changes you suggest arent given accompanying penalties as well. The problem with Japanese working 10 - 12 hour days, sick leave etc is a result of cultural practices. Its what people have been doing for generations. Therefore unless the relevant authorities get out there and MAKE THEM CHANGE, people`s attitudes will not change. Once that has happened then we will see fewer suicides.

  • 0

    Probie

    Impossible.

    It means getting rid of "gaman" and "ganbaru".

    It's all fine to talk about social change, but it's never going to happen without first doing things like giving workers more rights; or doing things like fining companie who have workers who don't use paid vacations etc...

    As LiveInTokyo says, MAKE THEM CHANGE.

  • 3

    Thunderbird2

    Yes, stop making people terrified to be off sick. stop bullying employees and schoolkids... let kids be children, not automatons. Stop this face-saving culture - we all make mistakes, live with it. Lost your job? Find another... jumping into the path of a train isn't a solution. Been dumped by your boyfriend/girlfriend? So what? Life goes on... Suicide should NOT be seen as either honourable or acceptable.

  • 2

    italiandream

    Suicide in Japan is a cultural problem. Behind a lack of undestanding of "freedom" and human dignity.

  • 4

    bass4funk

    @jeff

    An easier and more effective measure would be to put teeth into labor laws, preventing Japanese employers from making the lives of their workers so miserable. No more 10-12 hours a day shifts for rank-and-file staff, give sick days, leaves of absence, paternity leave, etc.

    Great idea! Add to that, offer counseling to employees that maybe have too much stress and need to take a leave of absence and NOT to treat stress or mental fatigue as being inept or weak or unwilling. A healthy, and happy employee is a good employee and can achieve a lot more in the workplace than to treat them as a modern day slave, giving them the I,pression that if they don't work themselves to death or sacrifice themselves for the company they aren't worth a darn. That really is something that drastically needs to change in Japan, but these companies don't like change, they don't want to hire mothers or women after 30, they don't want to retire the elderly and promote younger or middle-aged staff. This is another reason why there is so much stress...overworked. The same goes with paternity leave, there should be guarantees in place that these mothers once they come back to the workforce can either continue their jobs, advance their careers and be allowed to stay and grow with the company, if they so choose to do so.

  • -2

    gaijinfo

    It's a complicated problem. Suicide has long been a "noble" part of Japanese culture. It's also a way for plenty of "victims" to rub it in the faces of their alleged "tormentors." That's why so many folks kill themselves in such dramatic fashion, to kind of "get back" at society.

    So on the one hand, you've got to convince people that there is ultimate shame in suicide, it's the easy way out, it's NOT noble or anything. It's weak, and it's cowardly.

    On the other hand, you've got to do something about the useless "ganbatte" advice people give those in need. Take away the stigma of asking for help, and giving help.

    And as many posters have mentioned, you've got to get rid of the deeply ingrained bullying culture that exists pretty much at all levels of society.

    NONE of these problems can be easily fixed, or by having any kind of ridiculous "national discussion." It's got be tackled by everybody in society, as all are participants in one level or another.

    It's part and parcel to Japanese culture. In order to fix the problem, you've got to dramatically and fundamentally change the culture. Most people are only willing to eat their cake if they can have it too.

  • -1

    wtfjapan

    if Japanese people didnt worry so much about what other people think of them, and had more "I dont give a *****" attitude, stress levels and suicides would drop dramatically.

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