Following years of steady decline, suicide rates are back up again in Japan, this time involving the younger generation.
Reports by local media reveal child suicides in Japan are at their highest level in more than four decades, citing the country's education ministry.
According to the education ministry, 415 students between the ages of elementary and high school took their own lives as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced school closures and interrupted classrooms last year.
On Thursday, Japanese publication Asahi reported the figure is up roughly 100 from last year, making it the highest since records began in 1974.
Suicides surged in 2020, following a decade of drops, with the number of women dying by suicide soaring amid the emotional and financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, while fewer males committed suicide.
The education ministry reported that a record high of more than 196,127 school pupils were absent for 30 days or more.
The findings revealed that changes in school and household surroundings caused by the pandemic had a significant impact on children's behavior, the NHK reported.
Japan has been portrayed in the past as having a lenient attitude toward suicide. It has been thought of as a morally responsible action when it is "elevated to the level of an esthetic experience," as famous anthropologist Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney put it.
The military's use of seppuku is likely to blame for this elevation of suicide. Seppuku, also known as harakiri, is a form of ritual suicide once reserved for samurai.
An individual stabs oneself in the stomach with a short knife or other weapon and slices horizontally. Disemboweling in this manner, if done deeply enough, cuts the descending aorta and causes death by bleeding out.
As the ritual evolved and became more standardized throughout time, it became a sort of capital punishment administered to disgraced samurai or laypeople.
Despite ostensibly prestigious origins, public perception began to shift in the 1990s. The decade, dubbed "the lost decade," saw the conclusion of the Japanese miracle's excesses as the economy practically came to a halt. Job losses were widespread, and they were accompanied by intense shame.
Suicide rates soared during the time, as they had in previous economic downturns. Annually, more than 30,000 cases were reported, pushing the government to address the problem amid the economic slump.
Over the course of 15 years, a national effort reduced numbers by around 40%, including a ten-year decline beginning in 2009.