Japan has appointed its Prime Minister of Loneliness after suicide rates soared for the first time in 11 years.
Following the example of a similar appointment in the UK in 2018, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed Minister Tetsushi Sakamoto to the role earlier this month.
Suga’s government sees the issue as an urgent one, with loneliness among the Japanese population returning to the spotlight due to the pandemic.
Isolation is seen as the cause of a number of other social problems, such as suicide, poverty and social withdrawal.
Preliminary figures from Japan’s National Police Agency show that 20,919 people took their own lives in 2020 – 750 more than in 2019.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (pictured) appointed Minister Tetsushi Sakamoto as minister of loneliness earlier this month
The Japanese cabinet also set up a task force on Friday that will attempt to address the issue of loneliness under the jurisdiction of a range of ministries and investigate its impact.
Sakamoto – who is also responsible for addressing the country’s declining birth rate and revitalizing the struggling regional economy – said he wants to “ engage in activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and protect the bonds between people. ”
In October, Japan saw more people die from suicide in all of 2020 than from Covid-19, the data shows.
In October alone, there were 2,153 deaths from suicide, while Japan had seen 1,765 deaths from the coronavirus for the entire year by the end of October 2020.
On February 22, 2021, 7,541 people died of Covid-19 in Japan since the start of the pandemic, far fewer than the number lost by suicide in 2020.
The increase marks the annual increase in fires in 11 years and is largely attributed to an increase in suicides among women and young people, according to the Japan Times
This is related to the increasing number of single women in Japan, many of whom are not in permanent employment.
Michiko Ueda, a Japanese professor who studies suicide in Japan, told the BBC last week: “Many women are no longer married.
‘They have to support their own lives and don’t have a steady job. So if something happens, of course they get hit very, very hard. ‘
In October, 879 women died from suicide in Japan – 70 percent more than the same month in 2019.
Pictured: People wearing protective masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus walk on a pedestrian crossing in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, Feb.
“Women suffer more from isolation (than men), and suicide rates are on the rise,” Suga told his new appointee at a Feb. 12 news conference when he announced the new role.
“I hope you spot problems and promote policy measures extensively.”
While concerns about the rising numbers run in specific groups, Suga was clear that the problem affects people from all walks of life.
He also pointed out elderly people who are stuck at home and college students who are currently unable to attend classes in person due to pandemic limitations.
“ There are many types of loneliness ” that need to be addressed, said Japan’s prime minister, who has been in office since September 2020.
Japan’s new loneliness minister said he plans to hold an emergency forum later in February to hear the concerns of people dealing with loneliness.
“I hope to engage in activities to avoid social loneliness and isolation and to protect bonds between people,” he said after announcing his appointment.
Japan has long faced loneliness issues among the population, with the term ‘hikikomori’ meaning people living in extreme isolation, which is often discussed alongside the issue.
A series of solutions have been worked on, including a robot designed by engineers to hold someone’s hand when they are lonely.
Loneliness has been linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, dementia and eating disorders.
In Britain, loneliness is defined as ‘a subjective, unwanted feeling of lack or loss of company’.
Although the country was the first to appoint a minister for loneliness in 2018 – after a 2017 report found that more than nine million people in the UK said they often or always felt lonely – the role seems particularly desirable – with three people taking the have held office since inception.
Japan is currently in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus, which was extended by Prime Minister Suga until March 7.
The restrictions imposed by the state of emergency are considerably looser than other restrictions seen around the world, especially in Europe.
The measures call for more people to work from home and to close bars and restaurants after 8 p.m.
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