The loneliness induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the lack of social gatherings, has resulted in a number of suicide cases in Japan. Isolation linked to the pandemic has been blamed for the first surge in suicides in Japan in 11 years.
To counter that problem, Japan this month appointed its premier Solitude Minister after the country’s suicide rate rose during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to The Japan Times, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga added a minister of loneliness to his cabinet earlier this month, like the United Kingdom, which in 2018 became the first country to create a similar role.
Acknowledging this as a serious problem, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday launched a designated cabinet post to ease social isolation.
Tetsushi Sakamoto has been appointed prime minister of solitude. The new portfolio comes on top of the burden of fighting the country’s declining birth rate and revitalizing regional economies.
In his inaugural press conference, Sakamoto said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had appointed him to deal with national issues “ including the issue of increasing female suicide rate under the pandemic ”, according to TBEN .
In Japan, loneliness affects not only the elderly population, but also different age groups including children, youth, women and the elderly.
After the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 and the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami of 2011, many older victims had no choice but to move into temporary accommodation, where they died later with no one at their bedside. These lonely deaths, called “kodokushi” in Japanese, have become a major public concern in Japan.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse. At present, Japan has recorded more than 426,000 cases of COVID-19 and 7,577 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.
Japan also had the highest suicide rate of any major industrialized country in the Group of Seven, at 14.9 suicides per 100,000 people, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.