22 March 2019 | Staff | The Mainichi
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Suicide has become the leading cause of death among children aged 10 to 14 in Japan for the first time in the postwar period, Kyodo News has learned, after analyzing government demographic data.
While the total number of people who committed suicide across the country has declined remarkably in recent years, the 2017 statistics released by the health ministry showed 100 children in the age group took their own lives, accounting for 22.9 percent of deaths in their generation.
Cancer came second in the age bracket, at 22.7 percent, followed by accidents at 11.7 percent.
The overall number of suicides by Japanese peaked in 2003 at more than 32,000 people before beginning to decline and fell to 20,465 in 2017. However, the number of suicides per 100,000 people in the age group of 10 to 19 has remained flat.
Among those who are aged between 15 and 39, meanwhile, suicide has been the dominant cause of death since 2012, comprising about half of that among those in their 20s.
The individual factors spurring children aged 10 to 14 to kill themselves have not been sufficiently clarified, according to the white paper of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on prevention of suicide and other documents.
Many of those who committed suicide had not previously attempted to kill themselves, making it harder for people around them to recognize suicide signs, the documents said.
A recent trend in Japan in which suicides by children surge just after holiday seasons such as spring and summer vacations has become a major social issue.
Junko Sakanaka, a school counselor and member of a government panel tasked with the prevention of suicide, terms it a “serious situation” that suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 14.
“To prevent children from taking their own lives, we need to grasp more detailed actual conditions. Now we adults are being questioned how far we can catch (children’s) distress signals which are hard to perceive,” she said.