Work related reasons for suicideAn increasing pressure of retaining jobs by putting in more hours of overtime, while taking fewer holidays and sick days are seen as the driving force behind rising suicide numbers among office workers and employees in Japan. So called black companies are known for their precarious working conditions. In addition to forcing their employees to take on large amounts of unpaid overtime, workplace bullying, discrimination, and psychological abuse by supervisors and seniors are also common practices. Yet, even outside the realms of said corporations work related deaths started to occur increasingly during the 1980s – the years of the Japanese Bubble Economy. Occupational sudden mortality, known as karoshi ("death by overwork") became a well-known phenomenon in Japanese society. Besides physical exhaustion, mental health issues caused by a high-pressure working environment can lead to karoshi. Suicide due to occupational stress or overwork is called karojisatsu ("overwork suicide") in Japan.
While suicides among white-collar workers are a reoccurring topic in international media coverage about working culture in Japan, most self-harm victims were registered as unemployed. In a culture, where an essential part of a person’s identity is based on contributing to society via fulltime employment, having no occupation can be as detrimental to an individual’s health as buckling down in a toxic workplace.
Suicide among childrenMiddle-aged men are frequently portrayed as the highest-risk group for suicides in Japan. More recently however, self-harm among elderly and school children are recurrently picked up by the media. Financial anxiety, bullying, isolation, and the lack of a proficient mental healthcare system are only some of the factors blamed for contributing to Japan’s comparably high suicide rates amongst all age groups.
While overall suicide figures in Japan are decreasing, self-harm incidents among children displayed a contradicting trend over the past years. Numbers were particularly alarming among high school students, but not limited to teenagers. What drives young people into taking their own lives remains mostly unclear, yet recent data suggests that interpersonal relationships, such as family issues or bullying, as well as performance pressure are the main reasons behind rising suicide figures.