Japan’s suicide rate drops during coronavirus pandemic

The suicide rate in Japan dropped 20 percent in April, during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, according to a report Thursday.

It was feared that stress caused by the rapidly-spreading contagion would overwhelm the nation’s mental health hotlines, but instead, Japan experienced the biggest drop in its suicide rate in five years, The Guardian reported.

Over the month, 1,455 people took their own lives in the country, down by 359 from April of last year, according to the outlet.

Japan’s suicide rate has been on a steady decline since 2003, but last year still saw 20,000 cases.

The paper reported that the coronavirus-related closures in the country could have actually helped the mental well-being of residents, who have been able to spend more time at home with their families instead of commuting to work or school.

The pandemic has closed businesses and indefinitely delayed Japan’s school year, which was set to begin in April.

“School is a pressure for some young people, but this April there is no such pressure,” Yukio Saito, a former head of telephone counseling service, the Japanese Federation of Inochi-no-Denwa, told the Guardian.

“At home with their families, they feel safe.”

New COVID-19 infections reached their peak in Japan in April with as many as 500 new cases a day, prompting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency April 7.

Residents were subjected to a stay-at-home order, though the restrictions were not as severe as other countries, including the US.

Japan now appears to be turning a corner with the coronavirus, with Prime Minister Abe on Thursday lifting its lockdown for most regions — excluding major metropolitan areas like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido.

“Today is a new beginning for our daily lives, a new normal,” Abe said, warning that residents must adhere to social distancing as part of their “new lifestyles.”

The country has reported more than 16,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and roughly 680 deaths.


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