Sun, Feb 28, 2021, 06:01
Motoko Rich, Hikari Hida
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The rising psychological and physical toll of the pandemic has been accompanied by a worrisome spike in suicide among women. In Japan, 6,976 women took their lives last year, nearly 15 per cent more than in 2019. It was the first year-over-year increase in more than a decade.
Each suicide – and suicide attempt – represents an individual tragedy rooted in a complex constellation of reasons. But the increase among women, which extended across seven straight months last year, has concerned government officials and mental health experts who have worked to reduce what had been among the highest rates of suicide in the world. The situation has reinforced long-standing challenges for Japan. Talking about mental health issues, or seeking help, is still difficult in a society that emphasises stoicism.
The pandemic has also amplified the stresses in a culture that is grounded in social cohesion and relies on peer pressure to drive compliance with government requests to wear masks and practice good hygiene. Women, who are often designated as primary caregivers, at times fear public humiliation if they somehow fail to uphold these measures or get infected with Covid-19.
“Women bear the burden of doing virus prevention,” said Yuki Nishimura, a director of the Japanese Association of Mental Health Services.