In a bid to tackle the rise in suicide rates for the first time in 11 years due to the coronavirus crisis, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto as its first-ever Minister for Loneliness. Besides this, Sakamoto is also in charge of managing the nation’s falling birth rate and strengthening regional economies.
Following Britain’s lead, Japanese government created an isolation/ loneliness countermeasures office in its cabinet on February 19 to counter issues like suicide and child poverty.
Sakamoto said in his inaugural press conference Prime Minister Suga has appointed him to address matters of national importance “including the issue of increasing women’s suicide rate under the pandemic.”
He added, “(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.”
Suga had earlier said that Japan reported nearly 880 female suicides alone in October alone-a 70 per cent surge compared to October 2019, according to BBC.
According to Japanese suicide expert Michiko Ueda, “A lot of women are not married. They have to support their own lives, and they don’t have permanent jobs. So when something happens, of course, they are hit very very hard.”
Japan has reported a total of 4, 26,456 COVID-19 cases whereas 7,529 Japanese people have succumbed to the contagion so far. Japan has reported 4, 01,809 recoveries so far.