Plunge Pontificates

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Group Suicide on the Rise in Japan

We've discussed suicide on this site before, but never this aspect of it.

THIRTEEN people, dead in group suicides in the past week, have reawakened fears in Japan of a new epidemic of internet death pacts.

Four in their 30s were found suffocated to death in a car on Wednesday. Six in their 20s were found last Friday and three others, also in their 20s and 30s, earlier last week.

Their deaths fit a pattern now disturbing and familiar for Japan: depressed young people getting in contact on so-called suicide matchmaker websites and arranging a catastrophic rendezvous.
This is just wrong, but what can be done about it? Are their parents not seeing signs of depression? What is it with group suicide too? I just don't understand it. Is it easier for them to do it if others go with them? To me, suicide seems to be a personal battle with deep, dark depression so the thought of group suicide is difficult to understand.

Almost 90 people per day commit suicide in Japan, the highest rate in the developed world.
I had no idea the numbers were so high. I knew they were high, just like they are high in Korea, just not how high.

The police say that men and women in their 20s account for about 40 per cent of the group deaths but that eight cases last year involved children and teenagers aged between 10 and 19.

Internet matchmakers, including the webmaster of Suicide Circle who was interviewed by The Age last year, regard what they do as a community service that allows the desperate and isolated to communicate. They do not incite suicide, they say.

"Depressed young people and the internet, it's a very dangerous mix," according to Professor Mafumi Usui, of Niigata Seiryo University.

The websites were "the dangerous dynamic behind the recent group suicides", the professor said.

Though suicide is not a crime in Japan and there are no laws against the websites, as there are in Australia, police guidelines have existed since late last year. These rely on internet providers voluntarily disclosing information if they become concerned about the type of chat being exchanged on their sites. The National Institute of Mental Health is attempting to counteract the mood in cyberspace with its own website called To Live.
Looks like it is time to change some laws. While this won't solve the problem, it could go a long ways towards slowing down these incredibly high numbers of suicides.