Thursday, July 03, 2008

Japanese Suicide Rate Remains Steady

2007 was the 10th year in a row in which the number of people who committed suicide broke the 30,000 mark.

The National Police Agency reported 33,093 suicides last year

Most reports cite unspecified social pressures driving people to take their own lives. Very little seems to be discussed in terms of what can be done to help relieve said pressures. For years, the economy has been blamed for these unfortunate deaths. However, now that the economy is relatively stable (compared to the late 90's), it's obvious that the economy doesn't deserve the bulk of the blame.

Akita prefecture has been training its health professionals to recognize the signs of depression (isn't that a course in med school anyway?) since 2001. However, that northern prefecture of Japan has consistently had one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

Last year Akita had the second highest rate (suicides per 100,000 population) at 37.2 while Yamanashi, a prefecture nestled between Mt. Fuji and Western Tokyo, had a suicide rate of 39.

While the extra awareness on the part of doctors and nurses doesn't seem to be doing much, maybe the best way to reach people suffering from depression is to actually grab them.

Emergency technicians in the southern city of Fukuoka managed to stop a 38-year-old woman from jumping off the 12th floor of an office building in Hata-ku.

Their plan of attack was simple. They talked calmly to her until she took her eyes off them and then they lunged and grabbed her by the belt. Daring and crazy up on that ledge? Yes. Effective? You bet.

Now let's just hope she gets the help she really needs lest she climb back out there and try the same thing again.

[photo courtesy of Mainichi Newspaper]

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