Desperate choice in a pandemic

In 2020, for the first time in 11 years, suicides in Japan increase, with the proportion of men decreasing slightly while women increase to 15%.

Japan is considered the fastest and most accurate country in the world to update suicides. Usually, these reports are gathered at the end of the month. In the context of a pandemic, the statistics reflect a worrying problem.

In October 2020, the rate of women committing suicide in Japan increased by more than 70% compared to the same period in 2019. Why women are more affected than men during the pandemic, is a question asked by many experts out.

An unnamed young woman suffering from depression recounts that she left home at the age of 15 due to violence by her brother. Pain and loneliness have been lingering on her ever since. Ending her life seemed to be the only way out for her.

“This time last year, I often had to go to the hospital. I tried to kill myself many times but failed.” The girl continued to live through the Engagement Project intervention. They themselves found her a safe place to live and psychological counseling.

A poor Japanese person carrying food bags received from the Moyai Support Center in Shijuku district, Tokyo. Image:Japan Times.

Jun Tachibana, founder of Project Engagement, is a tough and upbeat woman. “When girls are in trouble and are in pain, they really don’t know what to do. So we stand by and listen to them,” Tachibana said.

Covid-19 seems to push the vulnerable closer. Tachibana’s staff has received many heartbreaking calls in recent months. The words “I want to disappear”, “I have nowhere to go” repeated much from the other end.

For victims of violence or sexual abuse, the pandemic makes the situation much worse. Tachibana recounted: “One day, a girl told me that she was being sexually harassed by her father. Because of Covid-19 he was often at home, leaving her with no way to escape”.

Professor Michiko Ueda is one of Japan’s leading experts on this matter. She was shocked to see the dramatic reversal of the past few months. “During my research career, I have not seen such an increase in women. The problem is that the industries most affected by Covid-19 have many female workers, such as tourism, retail and food industry, “Professor Ueda said.

More and more Japanese women are living alone, unmarried, and disrupting traditional gender roles. Professor Ueda said that young women also tend to work precarious jobs. “Many people don’t get married anymore. They have to support their own lives and don’t have stable jobs. So when something goes wrong, they will be badly affected. Over the past 8 months, a lot of employees. lost the job “.

At its peak in October 2020, 879 women committed suicide, 70% higher than the same period in 2019. The number of suicides in October was 2,199, higher than the number of Covid-19 deaths in Japan. up to that point.

“Women in their 40s are affected the most in all age groups. In this group, the suicide rate more than doubled,” said Shimizu, who runs a non-profit organization fighting the problem. in Japan said.

Other experts also agree that there is a very close link between celebrity suicides and a spike in suicides in the following days.

Besides, researcher Mai Suganuma, who works for Shimizu’s organization, was directly affected by a suicide, said, when she was a teenager, her father took his own life. Currently, she supports the families of those who have committed suicide. Life for many families whose loved one dies has become much more difficult.

“When I talk to the relatives of the deceased, they blame themselves for not being able to save the person they love. I also blamed myself for not saving my father. Now, when they have to stay home, I worry that they will feel more anxious, “Suganuma said.

Japan is facing a third wave of outbreaks. The government has declared a second emergency that will probably last through February. Many restaurants, hotels and bars are closed. More people fell into unemployment.

Professor Ueda also has a headache because of another difficult question. If this happens in Japan, a country that has not had a strict blockade and has a relatively small number of deaths from Covid-19, what is happening in other countries where the pandemic is going bad? much worse?

Mai Dung (Follow BBC)


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