Friday, March 20, 2009

Suicide Forest

AOKIGAHARA FOREST, Japan (CNN), By Kyung Lah -- Aokigahara Forest is known for two things in Japan: breathtaking views of Mount Fuji and suicides. Aokigahara Forest is known as the "suicide forest" because people often go there to take their own lives. Japan's Aokigahara Forest is known as the "suicide forest" because people often go there to take their own lives.
Taro, a 46-year-old man fired from his job at an iron manufacturing company, hoped to fade into the blackness.

"My will to live disappeared," said Taro. "I'd lost my identity, so I didn't want to live on this earth. That's why I went there." (Bold letters: Taro added)

Taro, who did not want to be identified fully, was swimming in debt and had been evicted from his company apartment. He lost financial control, which he believes to be the foundation of any stable life, he said. "You need money to survive. If you have a girlfriend, you need money. If you want to get married, you need it for your life. Money is always necessary for your life."

...He started to wander, he said. He collapsed after days and lay in the bushes, nearly dead from dehydration, starvation and frostbite. He would lose his toes on his right foot from the frostbite. But he didn't lose his life, because a hiker stumbled upon his nearly dead body and raised the alarm.

....Japan's suicide rate, already one of the world's highest, has increased with the recent economic downturn. There were 2,645 suicides recorded in January 2009, a 15 percent increase from the 2,305 for January 2008, according to the Japanese government.

The Japanese government said suicide rates are a priority and pledged to cut the number of suicides by more than 20 percent by 2016. It plans to improve suicide awareness in schools and workplaces. But officials fear the toll will rise with unemployment and bankruptcies, matching suicide spikes in earlier tough economic times.

"Unemployment is leading to this," said Toyoki Yoshida, a suicide and credit counselor."Society and the government need to establish immediate countermeasures to prevent suicides. There should be more places where they can come and seek help."

Yoshida and his fellow volunteer, Norio Sawaguchi, posted signs in Aokigahara Forest urging suicidal visitors to call their organization, a credit counseling service. Both men say Japanese society too often turns a cold shoulder to the unemployed and bankrupt, and breeds a culture where suicide is still seen as an honorable option.

Well, many Japanese choose to kill themselves if they have some difficulties. I think it comes from "Samurai culture" and it is out of date. It should be revised and reconsidered.

However, I am always wondering why many Japanese people are unable to enjoy their modern affluent life with joy. The life in Japan is very enviable and pleasant to many international people, because in many countries the freedom of speech and idea and belief is restricted and some democratic people are in jail. It's unbelievable here in Japan.

Anyway, we should feel much happier than we now do. For me, my life is always good enough to enjoy.


Taro said...

Sorry, anonymous, I cannot post your comment. Please have a common sense to comment on my blog!

Mark MacKay said...

The story about the man who tried to kill himself in the forest was full of sympathy and an attempt to understand the situation and the culture.

Your comment on the story was interesting to me. You showed some empathy at first to the suffering of the man in the forest. But then you distanced yourself from that suffering.

"Everything is fine and no one should be unhappy." That's what your comments said to me.

The actions of the man in the forest are proof that your culture is in crisis. What is the general feeling in Japan today about psychiatry and depression? Is it a shameful thing to ask for help?

Thank you.

Taro said...

Dear Mark,

Thank you for your kind and interesting comment!

I think you are the first visitor to my blog and I really welcome you.

>"Everything is fine and no one should be unhappy."

Right. That's what I said. However, at the same time I know some people have serious economic problems or mental sufferings and then choose to commit suicide. That's kind of a sad story and need dealing with first as an emergency measures.

Especially, you know, the number of the people who commit suicide are increasing compared to the international data and I believe it is a little late for public policy to deal with that problem.

>The actions of the man in the forest are proof that your culture is in crisis.

That's a great question and it's hard to answer, but I think so too. People have no idea what life is better to them, first of all, people have no idea what life they want to have: they can't live as they want. Some people are so busy in their everyday business that they cannot spend a good life.(I believe it's the same as in the case of the general American business people.)

>What is the general feeling in Japan today about psychiatry and depression?

Good question! That's what I've wanted to answer, but it's not easy, either.

In my opinion, the importance of psychiatry has been less recognized in Japan than in the US.

Some researchers try to lead people to a better understanding of it but many companies and governments don't seem to be capable of introducing it to their working places to better the conditions and the mental healths of the workers.

In the case of depression, recently more hospitals have seen such patients who have mental sufferings and more peole have recognized it as the first priority to better the people's lives. Fortunately I have never had such problem so far, but I am not sure if I will have it.

Is it a shameful thing to ask for help?

I don't think so, but many Japanese peole still think so, I guess. People seem to believe that it's a kind of virtue for them to solve personal problems by themselves, but I believe, they should change their mind and should know that they need a time to tell the story to other peole if they have such mental problems.

It's really a hard question but an un avoidable issue to tackle.

Andrew Grimes JSCCP, JCP said...

I would like to put forward a perspective on the real reasons behind the unacceptably high suicide Japan from Japan and so will limit my comments to what I know about here in Japan but would first like to suggest that western media reports on suicide rates in Asian countries should try harder to get away from the tendency to orientalize the serious and preventable problem of increased suicide rates here over the last 10 years by reverting to stereotypical ideas of Asian people in general.

Mental health professionals in Japan have long known that the prime causes for the unnecessarily high suicide rate in Japan are unemployment, the effects of bankruptcies, and the increasing levels of stress on businessmen and other salaried workers who have suffered enormous hardship in Japan since the bursting of the stock market bubble here that peaked around 1997. Until that year Japan had an annual suicide of rate figures between 22,000 and 24,000 each year. Following the bursting of the stock market and the long term economic downturn that has followed here since the suicide rate in 1998 increased by around 35% and since 1998 the number of people killing themselves each year in Japan has consistently remained well over 30,000 each and every year to the present day.

The current worldwide recession is of course impacting Japan too, so unless very proactive and well funded local and nation wide suicide prevention programs and initiatives are immediately it is very difficult to foresee the governments previously stated intention to reduce the suicide rate to around 23,000 by the year 2016 being achievable. On the contrary the numbers, and the human suffering and the depression and misery that the people who become part of these numbers, have to endure may well stay at the current levels that have persistently been the case here for the last ten years. It could even get worse unless even more is done to prevent this terrible loss of life.

During these last ten years of these relentlessly high annual suicide rate numbers the English media seems in the main to have done little more than have someone goes through the files and do a story on the so-called suicide forest or internet suicide clubs and copycat suicides (whether cheap heating fuel like charcoal briquettes or even cheaper household cleaning chemicals) without focusing on the bigger picture and need for effective action and solutions. Economic hardship, bankruptcies and unemployment have been the main cause of suicide in Japan over the last 10 years, as the well detailed reports behind the suicide rate numbers that have been issued every year until now by the National Police Agency in Japan show only to clearly if any journalist is prepared to learn Japanese or get a bilingual researcher to do the research to get to the real heart of the tragic story of the long term and unnecessarily high suicide rate problem in Japan.

Useful telephone number for Japanese residents of Japan who speak Japanese and are feeling depressed or suicidal: Inochi no Denwa (Lifeline Telephone Service):

Japan: 0120-738-556
Tokyo: 3264 4343

Andrew Grimes

Tokyo Counseling Services

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Anonymous said...

I sometimes have to wonder about the implications of suicide. Sure, when we look at the individual it is horrible to think about, but on the other hand we have to consider the broader implications. Seeing as often the reason people commit suicide is because of financial ruin it means that in those cases their financial ruin will not make them reliant on the state to survive. That way the nation can use that money to its own ends instead