The Japanese government is urging people to come forth with mental health issues after yet another celebrity passed away in a suspected case of suicide.
Japan has seen an alarming rise in cases of death by suicide among celebrities with “Miss Sherlock" star Yuko Takeuchi, becoming the fourth Japanese celebrity to succumb to it.
On Tuesday, the nation was shocked to find the 40-year-old actress had passed away, leaving behind a successful career and a family including two children. Takeuchi gave birth to her second child in January.
Actress Ashina Sei was also found dead earlier this month. And before that, actor Miura Harumi in July and reality TV star Kimura Hana in May.
The series of apparent suicides has plunged Japan in a discussion about mental health and depression, much like the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput did in India. However, instead of turning the case into a political slugfest and poll issue in India, the Japanese government seems to be focusing on addressing mental health.
On Monday, it urged people to seek help if they are struggling to cope with mental health issues and also seemed to purport that the coronavirus pandemic might also be causing a spike in cases.
While he did not mention any cases, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato noted that some people were struggling to cope during the coronavirus crisis.
In August, Japan saw nearly 1,900 suicides, up 15.3 percent from a year earlier. But is coronavirus really causing a spike in cases of suicide?
According to a report in the Washington Post, the United States has undergone a historic mental health crisis since the coronavirus pandemic. The federal hotline for mental health had a 1,000 percent increase in the number of calls it received from across the country as compared to last year. And that was just April.
Psychiatrists and mental health experts across the world have hinted at a possible link between the pandemic and the worsening mental health situation of people, with daily death and the stress of coping with isolation and lockdown causing severe trauma among people.
Pandemic blues in India
This isn’t just the case in Japan or in the US. Pandemics have led to a rise in suicides across India as well. Suicide Prevention India Foundation (SPIF), a Bengaluru-based organisation, found a severe rise in cases of self-harm and suicide ideation since the coronavirus pandemic. As per a report in Times of India, therapists reported a 30 percent increase in patients who self-harmed.
In Kolkata, 113 cases of death by suicide were reported from April to July. That is nearly double the number reported last year during the same period. As per a report in The Print, nearly half of them were under the age of 40.
Cases of suicide have also spiked in Himachal Pradesh with 466 cases of death by suicide reported across the state from January till July. While January and February saw 40 and 45 cases of death by suicide, the cases steadily rose as the lockdown began with June and July showing a two-fold increase with 112 and 101 deaths. A report in The Tribune said that “homemakers", labourers and students were the most affected and also cited the stress of the pandemic as a possible cause.
The report also noted that the deaths by suicide of public figures may cause an uptick in cases of suicide as it impacts the public at a larger scale. Bollywood actors Sushant Singh Rajput was found hanging inside his home on June 16.
But is India failing to address the massive mental health challenge knocking at its doorstep? Data reveals that we never were. India has one of the highest rates of death by suicide in the world. In 2016, the suicide rate was 17 per one lakh people.
Financial stress, changing lifestyles, caste discrimination, depression or anxiety, there can be many causes of suicide. Instead of giving a platform to celebrities denying mental health issues or harassing other celebrities for what they do in their free time, perhaps it is time for India to look deeper into what is causing a spike in rates of suicide.
(This news piece may be triggering. If you or someone you know needs help, call any of these helplines: Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669, Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050, Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090, Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525, Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841, Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830, Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530, Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000, Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata).)