What's behind Japanese students' high suicide rate?

Cover credit: Wikimedia

Cover credit: Wikimedia

According to a preliminary report issued by the National Police Agency (NPA), the total number of suicides in Japan, which is among the highest in the world, slipped below 25,000 in 2015 for the first time since 1997, with a reduction of 1,456 from 2014. Suicide rate in Japan is decreasing within all ages, except pupils of junior high school.

As a survey conducted by Ryō Uchida, professor of Nagoya University's educational development department, showed, on the contrary among junior high school students it has been constantly increasing since 2011. The rate reached the pinnacle in 2015 when 102 cases have been recorded.

The issue is even more worrying bearing in mind that over the past few years the number of young people has decreased as a result of the population’s gradual growth. In 2015, the Japanese students were 40 thousand less than the year before. On average, in 2015, every week two students took their own life.

According to the Government White Paper of measures to contrast to tackle the suicides published in 2015, in 70 percent of cases, the responsibility is related to the school environment.

The Cabinet Office published a research study last year that analyzed about 18,000 cases of suicide among students between 1972 and 2013, with a focus on the peak of suicides on Sept. 1, the day when the most of Japanese schools start, after the summer break, and in the middle of April, when the spring break finishes. Experts identify the bullying as the main cause.

In this regard, Yūmiko Yamada from the Aichi northern prefecture said that adults are not doing enough for this alarming and dramatic situation. Contrary to a requirement on the protocol about the measure to adopt in case of preteen suicide, where the Ministry of Culture assigned the first inquiry to the school, it gave no elucidation to miss Yamada when his son committed suicide, besides supplying no relation to regional education council and none student has been consulted about that.

Credit: Press Examiner

Credit: Press Examiner

On the other hand, Kyushu, a teacher of a junior high school in the south of the country, said that school is blamed for the problem as a result of the so-called “Moral Panic” syndrome, the reaction which lies the vast majority to attribute the responsibility for a fact to a specific social group.

Teachers think that the system does not provide the school the appropriate means to put a stop to the students’ discomfort, to combat bullying and to identify school system’s shortcomings.

Tsuyoshi Sumitomo, professor of pedagogical sciences at Seika University of Kyoto and member of an experts’ committee of the Ministry, pointed out the lack of means for detailed and effective enquiries, while it would be crucial understanding how the student’s life was, what was the relationship with the parents and what the teachers thought about him/her.

Given the complexity of the matter, even the American Educational Research Association (AERA), a national research society concerned with improving the educational process by encouraging scholarly inquiry related to education and evaluation, beside promoting the practical application of research results, has recently gotten involved with Japanese students’ situation.

As this institution’s experts claim, puberty is a crucial moment of the life, characterized by great changes and thus greater instability. With such a strong focus on results and compliance of the rules, adult people don not understand what happens to Japanese children with the risk of a negative impact on their psyche.

However, protecting children’s lives and ensuring the quality of their growth concerns not only teachers but also society as a whole.

How can we hope for a better future if we do not take care of young generations?