Resolution Calling for Effective Measures to Prevent Suicide with the Aim of Creating a Society which doesn't Push People Towards their Deaths
In 1998, a year which saw a dramatic downturn in the economic situation, the number of suicides in Japan stood at 32,863, an increase of 8,472 from the previous year. Since then, an abnormal situation has continued in which the annual number of suicides has surpassed 30,000 in each of the past 14 years. The rate of suicides in Japan is also extremely high in comparison with that seen in other countries.
In the light of such abnormal situation, the government decided to launch various countermeasures against suicide, and therefor enacted the Basic Act on Suicide Prevention in 2006, and in response to this, the General Policies of Comprehensive Measures against Suicide were formulated in 2007; however, the serious situation continues unabated to this day.
Lurking behind this situation are structural factors such as the expanding levels of income disparity and poverty, which have resulted from, on the one hand, an increase in the number of working poor due to the shift towards non-regular employment through the deregulation of labor laws, and on the other hand, a further reduction in the social security system, such as the provision of public assistance which had already been in a fragile situation. For the purpose of fundamentally reducing the number of suicides, it is essential to remove the structural factors which lead to suicide as well as to reinforce the government’s support for existing measures, including mental health care, promotion of the treatment of mental disorders, improvement of the counseling system, and public relations activities raising awareness of the suicide issue.
In the first place, many suicides result not from the free will or choice of the victim, but from such victim being left with a feeling that they have no choice of appropriate conduct on their own free will, taking into account the background of such structural factors, and due to their being psychologically oppressed as a result of numerous problems, including: employment problems such as dismissal and overwork; livelihood problems such as multiple debts and public assistance; family problems such as domestic violence and abuse; and school problems such as bullying. From this perspective, many suicides can be recognized as a kind of “forced death”, meaning that the right to self-determination and the right to life, which are fundamental and basic human rights, are violated by these structural factors. It is therefore urgent to take effective measures for suicide prevention in order to remove and alleviate such structural factors.
In the light of such circumstances, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) requests the implementation of effective measures for suicide prevention as set forth below.
First of all, based on the recognition that it is essential in the suicide prevention measures to eliminate the structural factors in society which push people towards their deaths, the government should realize: an overhaul of various labor laws and policies which have led to the expansion of non-regular employment; the establishment of a well-developed social security system which does not exclude the economically oppressed from measures such as social insurance and public assistance; and the improvement of the educational system and measures such as economic support by which all children and young people have dreams and hopes for the future.
Secondly, in addition to these basic measures, the JFBA makes the following requests to the relevant authorities.
1. As suicide prevention measures, the government and local governments should:
(1) conduct thorough research by means such as hearing from people concerned and others about what led victims to suicide and the reasons behind such suicides, taking into consideration the sentiments of bereaved family members, and in particular, for suicide prevention measures, making use of analysis of the social factors lying behind “health problems,” which is the most common reason and motive given for suicide contained in the government release; and
(2) establish a network, by actively cooperating with experts, including lawyers and medical and welfare personnel, and play a central role in its implementation and operation.
2. As support measures for bereaved family members, the government and local governments should:
(1) work on dissemination and enlightenment of information on the background issues and factors which have led to suicides in order to promptly eliminate discrimination and bias against suicide and against the bereaved family members of the deceased;
(2) establish systems and frameworks to support such bereaved family members in rebuilding their lives, understanding the difficult social stance they have been placed in; and
(3) as well as improving economic support for children bereaved by the death of a parent, establishing a system in which bereaved children can receive necessary support in the process of their growth and development in order to prevent the passing down of the disadvantage and social exclusion experienced by the suicide victims to the next generations with such victim’s suicide as a starting point, such as economic difficulties faced by bereaved children as a consequence of such suicide of a parent.
3. Business operators should, with an awareness of their grave responsibilities involving the suicide of employees from overwork, the problems surrounding power harassment and the issue of mental health: endeavor to stabilize employment in order to fundamentally eliminate the causes of such problems; take measures to reduce stress resulting from overwork by abolishing extended work hours; and also thoroughly address the need for reform of work conditions, work environment, the health care system and the organization as a whole, including the prevention of harassment in the workplace.
4. The mass media should voluntarily discuss appropriate ways of reporting in the light of possible suicide chain, including whether or not detailed information such as the place and means of suicide should become public, as well as considering the honor and privacy of suicide victims and their bereaved family members when reporting about suicide.
While the JFBA has constantly been taking measures regarding the social issues leading to suicide, we recognize that we have not necessarily addressed the measures for suicide prevention directly as a human rights issue in a sufficient manner, sincerely reflecting on the measures we have taken. Thus, the JFBA has proactively determined that it will actively engage in suicide prevention measures on a permanent basis, and also resolves to exert its fullest efforts in providing necessary and sufficient support, including training, preparation of manuals and mental health care for those involved in applicable consultations, so that each attorney can play a role as a gatekeeper in suicide prevention.
October 5, 2012
Japan Federation of Bar Associations