Minister of Loneliness Appointed to Prevent Suicides

Japan has appointed a “minister of loneliness” as the country deals with rising suicide rates amid the pandemic, which increased social isolation.

Amid the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in an increase in self-isolation, Japan faced an exponential rise in its suicide rates for the first time in 11 years. To counter this and to prevent future deaths by suicide, the government has appointed a Minister of Loneliness.

The country’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto – who is currently a minister in charge of dealing with Japan’s declining birthrates and promoting regional revitalization – to manage and oversee government policies regarding loneliness and isolation.

Japan appoints 'Minister of Loneliness' to fight pandemic-driven isolation, World News |

In a press conference held on February 12, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stated: “Women are suffering from isolation more [than men are], and the number of suicides is on a rising trend.”

“I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively,” he addressed the Minister of Loneliness.

There were 2,153 suicides in Japan in October 2020, compared to 1,765 Covid-19 deaths that year according to the Japanese National Police Agency. The Japan Times quoted police statistics that said, 20,919 people, took their own lives in 2020, which is up by 750 from the previous year.

Unfortunately, it has been deduced that loneliness is not a new issue for Japan because it is home to the “Hikikomori,” people who live in extreme social isolation. To counter such deaths by suicide, engineers in Japan previously designed a robot to hold someone’s hand. Another man in Japan has devoted himself to do nothing but provide others company.

The new Minister of Loneliness intends to hold an emergency forum in late February to collect and record concerns from civilians dealing with loneliness and isolation. “I hope to carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people,” Sakamoto said at the conference.

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