Recently I attended a seminar on the topic of ‘Suicide and the COVID-19 pandemic: Trends in Japan and Around the World’ hosted by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. The talk featured two speakers – David Gunnell, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Bristol and a world-leading epidemiologist and public health physician, and Michiko Ueda, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Political Science and Economics at Waseda University, in Tokyo, Japan
It was an excellent webinar and the main webinar (i.e. not the questions and discussion) are available on YouTube.
I was interested in the seminar from a few perspectives. As I have discussed before, the topics of mental health and suicide are important topics and ones which have come up not only in some of my research, including the book Japan: The Basics, but have also come up in some of my novels – such as Tokyo 20/20 Vision and FOUR. I have also written about the subject in a post about Aokigahara.
A few things stood out from the seminar. First, in Japan, COVID-19 seemed to lead to a huge increase in female suicides (while male suicides dropped). Second, as I had suspected and had read about before, it was pointed out that Japanese people don’t seek mental health support as much as those in many other countries and while the stigma is less now, it is hard to get appointments and support. These points lead me to wonder whether the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to further pressures for women to be given more equal and permanent contracts and for a greater desire for lifetime employment benefits to reach a much wider section of society (i.e not just primarily men and those in the very large companies)?