Chair of the Japanese Association for Suicide Prevention Yukio Saito
By JUDIT KAWAGUCHI
Yukio Saito, 75, is the Chair of the Japanese Association for Suicide Prevention and CEO of the Japanese Federation of Inochi-no-denwa (Lifeline), Japan's first and largest telephone counseling service. For the past five decades, Saito has been educating the public and lobbying relentlessly to bring an end to Japan's shockingly high suicide rate, which is one of the highest among developed countries. From 1977, the number of suicides in Japan increased steadily until 1998, when suicides claimed one life about every 20 minutes. It took Saito four decades and the publication of more than 40 books on suicide to convince the Japanese government to start paying attention to these numbers. Finally in 2001, Japan's first national suicide-prevention policy was enacted. Still, 2003 turned into an especially tragic year as 34,427 people- about 70 percent of them men — took their own lives, bringing the nation's suicide death toll to a new peak, with one about every 15 minutes. As time is running out for more and more people, Saito does everything in his power to keep reaching out.
Yukio Saito, chair of the Japanese Association for Suicide Prevention and CEO of the Japanese Federation of Inochi-no-denwa (Lifeline) JUDIT KAWAKUCHI PHOTO
Every day is precious. It might be our last one. Or it could end up as the final day for a loved one. Make it great!
Talking is the most effective coping mechanism. Opening one's mouth is a way to open one's own heart, and the listener's heart, too. Everyone has the power to cope if they express their feelings.
When people are grieving, the feelings that lead to suicide are strong. Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, suicide rates in the Tohoku region have gone up sharply. In Fukushima Prefecture, 217 people killed themselves in May. In 2010, there were 49 suicides there during the same month.
In March, we set up additional counseling lines for northern Japan and in 10 days we received 1,515 calls. Sadly, we couldn't operate longer than those 10 days because we couldn't raise enough funds to cover the incoming calls. So far, the government hasn't done much for people regarding suicide prevention and crisis intervention, so I'm very worried that more tragic news of suicides will come to light within the next few months.
Chair of the Japanese Association for Suicide Prevention Yukio Saito | The Japan Times Online