For the first time ever, Japan has appointed a ‘Minister of Loneliness’ to combat the island nation’s exacerbating suicide rates.
The suicide rates in Japan increased for the first time in more than a decade, prompting the government to take this step. In an appalling data, more people in Japan died from suicide in October than the total number that died due to the coronavirus pandemic up to that point in 2020. Initial figures show that around 20,919 people in Japan died by suicide in 2020, about 750 more than the number in 2019.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto, who has also been designated to deal with Japan’s declining birthrate and promoting regional revitalization. These measures are being undertaken by the government to deal with loneliness and isolation that has been impacting thousands in the country.
Experts believe that this rising number of suicides are due to social isolation caused by the restrictions due to the pandemic. The falling economy that has caused people to lose their jobs has also been a cause for concern.
“Women are suffering from isolation more (than men are), and the number of suicides is on a rising trend,” Suga told Sakamoto in a news conference announcing the new role, according to the Japan Times. “I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively.”
“(Japan PM) Suga instructed me to examine the issue and put forward a comprehensive strategy, by coordinating with the related ministry… I hope to carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people,” Mr Sakamoto said.
Sakamoto will coordinate between multiple ministries and agencies to further his agenda of suicide prevention. He will also host an emergency forum with many stakeholders to identify the top priorities for his ministry. He also said that he will work with the health ministry of Japan to address the issue of suicide prevention.
The United Kingdom was the first country in the world to appoint a Minister of Loneliness when it did so in 2018.
This is certainly a welcome move by Japan to address the issue of mental health. Do you think other nations must also create such a portfolio? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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