Suicide epidemic in Japan caused or self-generated?

Working yourself to dead is for most of us just an expression, right? In Japan it is the reality. It even has an official name: ‘karoshi’ and it is a growing problem. The working week is outreaches long and the work pressure increases enormously. Until a given worker commits  suicide due to overwork and stressful circumstances. This is called ‘karojisatsu’. Besides dead by ‘karoijsatsu’ there are more reasons why a person gets a depression and even kill themselves.

Suicide ranking

Suffering in silence

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and lost six time more people to suicide than to traffic accidents in the year 2017. In Japan 21,3 thousand people committed suicide and 3,7 thousand died from traffic accidents in 2017. From the people who attempt suicide 90% suffers from depression. Although the suicide rate is high the percentage of patients diagnosed with depressive disorders is not. Which suggest that many Japanese suffer in silence. The thing you can wonder is why. Why are there so many people with the disease and why do they all suffer alone? Here are just a few of many examples:

‘11 year old boy, has died after throwing himself under a train in Japan, in an apparent suicide in protest at plans to close his school.’

’27 year old man, worked around the clock. In the worst case he had to work overnight through to 10 pm the next evening, working 37 hours in total. He couldn’t take it anymore and died from a overdose of medication. His dead was officially ruled a case of ‘karoshi’.’ 

’24 year old women, an employee at the Japanese advertising agency Dentsu jumped to her dead. It emerged she had barely slept after working more than 100 hours of overtime a month in the period leading up to her dead.’ 

’33 year old women, froze to dead after parents locked her in a room. She was locked in there because she was mentally ill. The parents insisted they fed their daughter properly, but she weighed only 19 kilograms when her naked body was found in the unheated room.’ (See the video below)

Socially not acceptable

The video shows the stigma there is about telling someone about a mental health problem and seeking professional help. In Japan it is normal not to talk about it when you suffer from a depression. You keep it to yourself and you deal with it. Even the people in your surrounding will not accept it, because it is not socially acceptable. Is it because they don’t understand the disease? And don’t know what the consequences could be? Or is it because the image of having an mental disease is created by the government? In the past the government encouraged isolation of mentally ill people by rewarding hospitals for taking them in. As long as the patients were in their care, the hospitals were getting subsidies. Between 1949 and 1996 the government  had even a policy of sterilizing people diagnosed with mental illnesses. Which is a violation to the human rights. The government refused to compensate or even to apologise to victims. All together it could explain why still today mental illnesses are still not socially accepted.

For me it is hard to imagine that the next of kin wouldn’t care about the condition of someone. I experienced first handed what it’s like to wonder if someone is going to harm themselves. You feel powerless and you don’t know what to do to make it better. Especially when you can’t talk about it with anyone, because it is still not something that other people should know. Even though in the countries I am from mental health care is available, it doesn’t mean that it’s good. Still so many people don’t get the help that they need and deserve. An example is that there are hotline’s available, but the help the hotline provides isn’t always what the person needs.


What is actually a depression?

Depression is a condition that affects mood and feelings. If you suffer from it, you can become immersed in gloom. You lose interest in the people and things around you and can no longer really enjoy. People who have depression do not always have to be suicidal. Characteristics that someone is suicidal are:

Imagine someone in your area has a depression and of course you want to help, right?! If you have no experience with depression yourself, that can be difficult. Here are some do’s and don’ts: Do not give well-intended advice. It is very easy to say ‘do something fun’. But can be totally mistaken. In addition, a depressed person may show different behavior, so do not judge. What helps is to let someone know that you are there for them. It is very important that you do not lose yourself and give the other person your limits. Finally, your understanding and patience is extremely valuable. The government may not be able to give a mental ill person exactly the emotional support that they need. But you can!!

Do you recognise someone who has the signs of being suicidal (stated before) or are you thinking about it yourself? Please seek help! Go to , there is nothing to be ashamed for!



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