In Japan, more people died from suicide last month than from Covid in all of 2020November 29, 2020
Now 43, Kobayashi has written books on her mental health struggles and has a steady job at an NGO. But the coronavirus is bringing back the stress she used to feel.
“My salary was cut, and I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I constantly feel a sense of crisis that I might fall back into poverty.”
Experts have warned that the pandemic could lead to a mental health crisis. Mass unemployment, social isolation, and anxiety are taking their toll on people globally.
“We didn’t even have a lockdown, and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries … but still we see this big increase in the number of suicides,” said Michiko Ueda, an associate professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, and an expert on suicides.
“That suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future.”
Covid’s toll on women
While the reasons for Japan’s high suicide rate are complex, long working hours, school pressure, social isolation and a cultural stigma around mental health issues have all been cited as contributing factors.
The pandemic appears to have reversed that trend, and the rise in suicides has disproportionately affected women. Although they represent a smaller proportion of total suicides than men, the number of women taking their own lives is increasing. In October, suicides among women in Japan increased almost 83% compared to the same month the previous year. For comparison, male suicides rose almost 22% over the same time period.
There are several potential reasons for this. Women make up a larger percentage of part-time workers in the hotel, food service and retail industries — where layoffs have been deep. Kobayashi said many of her friends have been laid off. “Japan has been ignoring women,” she said….