The Japanese prime minister has appointed a “minister of loneliness” to his cabinet in response to the recent surge in suicides.
Like The Japan Times reported, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga created the role in early February, taking the example of the UK, which created its own role in 2018.
Tetsushi Sakamoto will take on the role, the Times reported, as he manages the country’s falling birth rates and regional economies.
Figures from the National Police Agency showed that 20,919 people committed suicide in 2020, an increase of 750 people from the previous year and the first consecutive increase in suicides in 11 years, the Times reported. According to the media, the increase is more notable among women and young people.
Suga told the country’s budget committee earlier this month that people from all walks of life are vulnerable, the Times reported.
The newspaper noted that Japan is familiar with loneliness, as kodokushi, or “lonely deaths,” are common. These are people who die inside their homes and remain undiscovered for long periods of time.
Japan scored highest in terms of people 60 and older who felt they had no one to turn to in times of need, with 16 percent of people saying so, compared with 13 percent in USA
The pandemic has exacerbated the sense of isolation worldwide. In the US, the Clark County School District in Nevada partially reopened schools in response to the increase in student suicides during the pandemic, and the number of student suicides doubled from the previous year.