Japanese Suicide Hotline Struggling To Cope

Australian Associated Press: JAPAN’S hotline for people considering killing themselves is stretched to its limit, with the economic crisis feared to be worsening the country’s suicide problem, its director says.

More than 30,000 people kill themselves every year in Japan, giving the country one of the world’s highest suicide rates. A national suicide hotline run by the Telephone Lifeline association is struggling to meet demand, with 7,000 volunteers handling some 700,000 calls a year.

“We don’t have enough volunteers,” Yukio Saito, the head of the federation, said. “I’m afraid that there will be a rise in suicides with the economic recession,” he said.

Japan’s suicide rate shot up in the late 1990s soon after the collapse of the bubble economy. Asia’s largest economy has again fallen into recession as the global crisis saps demand for its exports.

Mr Saito said the group would like to receive more government help. The central government gave the association Y80 million ($1.2 million) last year, a fall of 20 per cent from several years ago, with some centres also getting local subsidies, he said.

Some 24 out of every 100,000 Japanese people killed themselves in 2006, higher than the global average of 16, according to the World Health Organisation. The high rate in Japan is often attributed to the absence of religious taboos about suicide, society’s strong pressure to conform and the lack of psychological care for depressed people.