A decade of mental health improvement for almost everybody, but the “almost” part shows there’s still a lot of work to be done.

This week, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released the final results of its statistical analysis of suicide in the country during 2019. While the topic is always a sad one, there’s at least quite a bit to be happy about in the changes that have taken place since last year.

During 2019, researchers recorded 20,169 confirmed suicides. While the total didn’t quite come under the 20,000-death threshold that early findings had the ministry hoping for, it’s still the smallest number of suicides to ever take place in Japan, at least since 1978, when official statistics began being recorded. It represents 671 fewer self-inflicted deaths than the previous year, which works out to a 3.2-percent decline. It’s also the 10th consecutive annual reduction, marking a decade-long improvement in this facet of Japan’s mental health.

Sorted by gender, men accounted for the majority of suicides, 14,078 versus 6,091 for women. Both tallies were lower than those for the year before though, with the men’s number down 1.5 percent and women’s down an especially encouraging seven percent.

Of course, those improvements wouldn’t mean much if the numbers were simply a result of Japan having fewer people in general due to a sustained dropping of the birth rate. That’s not the case, though, as researchers also found the rate of suicides per 100,000 Japanese residents declined during 2019, once again for the 10th year in a row. The overall rate of 16 suicides per 100,000 people is the lowest ever, and the 9.4 per 100,000 women is the first time the female suicide ratio has dropped below 10.

Age-wise, people in their 50s and 40s continue to be the largest suicide demographics, with 3,454 and 3,426 deaths, respectively. Even, though, both brackets had fewer deaths, both in total number and per-100,000-people rate, than the year before, which was true for all age groups with one concerning exception: suicides among people aged 10 to 19 (the Japanese language has no direct equivalent for the English “teenager”) rose during 2019, both in total number and per-100,000-people ratio.

While it’s definitely heartening to see adult suicide rates continue to decline in Japan, a country where feelings of professional failure and burdening one’s family are common sources of depression, it’s worrisome to see the situation worsening, by whatever amount, among those who are still in the early stages of their lives. Hopefully Japan can continue to find ways to deal with the issues that drive adults to end their lives while also helping those who are younger, but in just as much need of support.

If you or someone you know is in Japan and having suicidal thoughts, there are people here to help. Click here for more info.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Jiji via Jin
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