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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Solving Suicide

by Sam Huntington


I used to drive my sensei to distraction, always asking about the suicide rate in Japan. What does it matter, she would ask. I would always argue, “It matters because young people are taking their own lives, rather than facing up to the challenges that everyone must face.” She persisted, “People who commit suicide are facing their challenges —and they are making a decision that is suitable to them. Plainly, this is none of your business —or mine.”

This was a conversation that took place in 1985. Since then, the suicide rate in Japan has only gotten worse. Every year, the suicide rate exceeds 34,000. Of these, 70% are men. Approximately 3,000 children commit suicide every year when they learn that they have failed their high school entrance examinations. Forty percent of suicides among men occur between the ages of 20—44. Suicide among Japanese women is the leading cause of death between the ages 15—34. One Japanese suicide every fifteen minutes is more than twice the frequency of suicide in the United States.



But why has the suicide rate in Japan increased since the mid-1980s? Historically, Japan is a male-dominated society with strong family ties and correlating social expectations. In the 1990s, Japan experienced a sharp economic downturn that brought an end to the “jobs-for-life” culture. Employment insecurity, and the stigma associated with unemployment left heads of families struggling with loss of face and mounting debt. In 2009, Japanese unemployment reached an unheard of 5.7%.

A related cause of suicide is the increased pressures associated with keeping one’s job. According to government analysis, fatigue from work and associated health problems, including work-related depression, were primary motives for suicide—accounting for 47% of the suicides among men in 2008. Another contributing factor is forced retirement, impacting those aged 50 or older.

One final concern is the debt of families when the primary earner has lost his job. In Japan, it is expected that one will repay his debts. It is a matter of honor. According to Japan’s National Police Agency, many suicides are inseki jisatsu (responsibility driven). When people cannot meet their obligations, they commit suicide to save face. The near-gangster like tactics used by loan companies to recoup their loans may have something to do with these high rates of suicide. It is felt that life insurance payout will help to pay off these high debts.

Here in America, the states with the lowest suicide rates are California, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Ohio. States with the highest suicide rates include West Virginia, Oregon, New Mexico, and Nevada. We struggle to understand why the variances in suicide rates in our states. For example, some argue that long, cold winters help to explain the high rates in Oregon, but no one understands why the rate in neighboring Washington is lower (although, not by much). Portland, Oregon enjoys an average of 30 days more sunshine than Seattle, but has a higher suicide rate. Moreover, some groups of Americans are more likely to commit suicide than others. Men, more than women; Protestants, wealthy people, and single people are more likely to commit suicide than are women, Catholics, Jews, the poor, and married people. Military veterans are twice more likely to commit suicide than civilians. But we do know that people with strong social ties have much lower suicide rates than people on the peripheral of mainstream society.

Returning to Japan, the number of suicides in 2012 dropped below 30,000 for the first time in fifteen years. Recall that 2012 was the year following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. Everyone expected the suicide rate to skyrocket. So, what happened? For one thing, the Japanese people have finally forced their government to confront this issue. According to Professor Hisanaga Sasaki, the government is listening; they have prioritized their spending and elevated suicide prevention to a high priority. As a result, the Japanese have established co-operatives involving volunteer civic groups, health professionals, and local government officials to help reduce suicide.

I suspect that we Americans could reduce our suicide rates, as well. But no, we’ve decided to pursue a confusing, different path. Rather than finding ways to solve crises, our government has created even more stress by requiring people to enroll in a health care system that in some cases, doubles their costs. Rather than spending money to solve problems, we are spending money to create worse problems.

Fathom the hypocrisy of a government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured, but not everyone must provide they are a citizen. And now, any of those who refuse, or are unable to prove they are citizens will receive free insurance paid for by those who are forced to buy insurance because they are citizens.” —Ben Stein

40 comments:

  1. people with strong social ties have much lower suicide rates than people on the peripheral of mainstream society

    At the rate we are becoming cyborgs and substituting virtual life for real life, suicide rates just might soar.

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    1. Pay attention.

      This is not your blog.

      This blog is not your property.

      If you want something else posted, post it at your own blog, or visit blogs where you can be part of the echo chamber.

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    2. Don't know what the person said, but yes, you set the rules here. Nice to see an enforcement officer around. . .

      BZ

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    3. We are bit sporadic with enforcement because all of us administrators have lives outside the virtual world.

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  3. First of all, the name of the program ObamaCare is a political name given the program so the Republicans who wish this program would fail and are doing whatever they can to make it fail. And Democrats don’t even realize this or they would have not allowed this name to stick. . President Obama should have nipped this in the bud right away, but something with his name on it got the best of him, being the attention getter that he is. . The correct name is “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, and that’s what it would be called. PERIOD! It should be known as the “ACA”. People do no not like nicknames for important programs and the less educated people do not understand the term. Second, there is no specific exemption for Muslims in the ACA; there are some allowable waivers for some church groups but each must be approved individually. Third, I support the ACA as it affords those without medical insurance the opportunity to seek and get much needed medical care. You folks that are rich and buy any medical insurance program you want, those of you with free medical insurance and those of you who are provided medical insurance through your employment help get medical care to everyone that need care. It is not Socialism; it is the American way. Fourth, the data input problems are usual problems associated with new computer monitored programs. Remember garbage in garbage out; you only get the quality you pay for or relative to the overall management of the program.

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    1. the data input problems are usual problems associated with new computer monitored programs.

      What you talkin' 'bout, Willis??? I enroll/re-enroll select benefits options with my employer from a website EVERY year. It worked the very first year it was available AND has worked every year since.

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  4. In conclusion, let’s get behind the program and help Americans that need medical help. We will catch some of the crooks; some will figure to make big profits, i.e., politicians, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and groups (like AIG whom we, the people, had to bail out because of bad investments), just everyday people who are looking to beat the system and make a little money and let us not forget the scam artists; but nothing is ever perfect. Individual cost for the medical coverage is the most misunderstood item at this time, but things will change as this factor is sorted and applied properly. You should not listen to rumors or assumptions about what an ACA plan will cost you; you need to go to the ACA site and compare costs with what you currently pay. OK, so there were some glitches with the websie at first, but this happens with NEW programs all the time. I believe we can overcome these problems. There is a lot of negative advertisement out on the ACA cost for individuals and families; get the facts; go to the experts and get the truth. There still appears to be some unknown cost factors associated with age and current health insurance coverage.
    I recognize the bias of these fear mongering by these NAY-Sayers. A delay of maybe three months might be appropriate, but what about those who expecting health care coverage because they have none and need it to survive. The ACA will provide medical care for pre-existing conditions for thousands of Americans and it will provide medical insurance to 15 million Americans that do not have medical insurance. As a result of the ACA hundreds of clinics have opened across the United States. The GOP/Tea Party members and lovers have resorted to outright lies and twisted truths concerning ACA; do not listen to them; talk to your friends and other people and tell them the advantage and truth about the ACA. Maybe implementation of the Medicaid portion might be appropriate for those poor people or those that cannot afford the cost at this time. It is apparent that some adjustments are needed, but the ACA intent and purpose is still a sound way to take care of America. The ACA cost may be less than you expected. Remember the GOP is still trying to take funds away from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the GOP is really pushing negative ads and incomplete information with the intent of bringing the ACA down; a lot of the GOP rationale is that Obama is black and the racists in the GOP resents will do anything to discredit Obama. They use the “N: word behind his back and among themselves because they fear reprisals for the racists and bigots they really are. God help the GOP if and when a woman starts kicking their asses in 2016 to get things done; they will be crying bloody murder for their for help.

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    1. ...and for the millions of you who lost their healthcare coverage due to Obamacare...

      "Tough Titties!"

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    2. What about the biases of the YAY-sayers? Shouldn't we recognize THEM as well?

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  5. A culture that has a history of honoring death by individuals flying airplanes into ships, thus in essence committing suicide is reaping its harvest. I know you are making a larger point, but having lost a relative to this culture, I felt a need to offer this reminder.

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  6. Suicide is the symptom of a larger societal problem. One cannot "solve" suicide... for IT is NOT the "primary" problem. Solve the "primary" problem, and suicide will "solve itself".

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  7. I think it is absolutely true that we cannot “solve” suicide. On the other hand, if we are content to spend tens of millions of dollars on first family vacations, or if we think that sending hundreds of millions of dollars in arms to Syrian rebels is preferred to spending that money addressing this issue, if we are willing to pay subsidies as a bribe to irresponsible citizens in order that they will purchase health care, then it is absolutely certain that we will achieve no headway in this area. It becomes an issue of priority. So I guess all these other things are more important than reducing incidents of suicide in our country.

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  8. No, they too are "symptoms" or if you prefer, sinthomes of the larger/greater problem. A problem which no amount of "money alone" can EVER hope to alleviate/address.... except to make the problem worse.

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  9. In other words, the very thought that you can use money to solve "other peoples problems" for them, is in itself an invitation MOST LIKELY to exacerbate them... an invitation to treat and use them as "objects", instead of sovereign subjects.

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    1. Hear! Hear!

      YES!

      Although wouldn't it be most desirable for those in authority to treat people as CITIZENS rather than "objects" OR "subjects?"

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  10. Now, I do not ENTIRELY agree with the Sensei when she says, “People who commit suicide are facing their challenges —and they are making a decision that is suitable to them. Plainly, this is none of your business —or mine.”, for there ARE structural/societal arrangements that can drive people to suicide. Heidegger's DASEIN is real, for there is no isolated form of "Being"... every form must exist inside a world (die welt) unique to its' time and receptive/reflective to it.

    And it is in fashioning THIS world, that the "solution" lies.

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  11. ...and I believe that Heidegger would say that it is a problem of "authenticity". This "authenticity" is very difficult, if not impossible to achieve in an "urban", dynamic and constantly evolving/changing setting. It is MUCH easier to achieve authenticity in a rural/traditional and closed/static society.

    Japan has had great difficulty making the transition, and concepts of "honour" and self-sufficiency tend to reflect the older, more traditional "agrarian" societal values.

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    1. I doubt Bushido had much to do with agrarian society unless you conflate feudal and agrarian societies.

      Suicide was always been a critical element of Japanese culture.

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    2. Bushido evolved over 1,000 years, so I imagine that there was a relationship between the moral code emerging from an feudal agrarian society, into the more industrial, militaristic society that Japan became after Meiji.

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    3. It was certainly a part of post war Japanese cinema, Sam.

      A critical aspect was Japan's ability to reflect on the devastation of the war but never directly take responsibility.

      The closest they came was a deconstruction of Bushido and I recommend Kobayashi's Harikiri if you haven't seen it. Rather devastating indictment of an obsolete moral code.

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    4. Suicide was always been a critical element of Japanese culture.

      So then, how does one explain suicide in the rest of the world?

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    5. There may be a lot of "suicide bombers" from the Islamic States, but suicide is a RARE occurrence in Islamic countries.

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    6. Thank you, Ducky. I’ll see if I can find that film. Did you ever see the Australian Film, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”?

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    7. Another Japanese director and a good one.

      It didn't show much hope for dealing with cultural divisions.

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    8. Suicide was always been a critical element of Japanese culture.

      I hope that you are aware of the "progressive" political ideological tendency to attribute to "cultural differences" and deem "intractable" those social problems for which "political" solutions are difficult to implement. In other words, rather than politically "address" an issue like "honour killings", to instead "ignore" and/or "tolerate" this behaviour as a "cultural difference" for which one can Do nothing BUT "tolerate" in a multi-cultural society..

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  12. Replies
    1. and here's the short course if you don't have an hour and a half.

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  13. It's official! Welfare Recipients Now Outnumber Workers
    Shocked?

    I'm not. Not really. It is, after all, the goal of the democrat party

    Census Bureau: Welfare Recipients Now Outnumber Full-Time Workers…

    So all you hard working Republican slobs, work harder everyone, millions of Obamabots out there are depending on you.

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  14. Reminds me of a post-World War Two joke:

    A Japanese girl had been consorting with an American GI named Harry who had like Pinkerton of Madama Butterfly fame promised to marry her, and bring her back with him to live in the states.

    Unfortunately, Harry was suddenly redeployed to the USA since the Occupation was winding down, and left the poor girl behind with nothing but a promise to write to her "soon."

    She waited and waited hoping to hear from him, but Alas! no letter came. Finally, she broke with the tradition of her people and wrote to him, herself.

    Here is what she said:

    Dear Harry,

    You are gone three months, and I am three months gone.

    What should I do?

    Should I carry, Harry, or "harry-carry?"

    Yours,

    Suzuki


    ________________

    Why we Americans, who always mispronounce everything, have always called harakiri "harry carry" when it should be "harra keery" I'll never know, but the joke was very funny at the time.

    I suppose today it would be considered, racist, sexist, callous, culturally insensitive, demeaning to all women everywhere, and hideously chauvinistic, etc.

    Frankly, I don't give a shît. I still think it's funny as hell. };-)>

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  15. Actually, FJ … the data you referenced shows that suicide is rare is Catholic countries, not Islamic countries—which appears to be on par with western nations. Unless I’m going color blind.

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    1. I suppose that it would depend upon which countries you chose to compare. North Africa and South America do compare more favourably.... but Somalia would appear to be a real suicide hotspot..

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  16. "What difference does it make?"

    ~ The Line of the Century

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  17. How truly tragic. I had no idea that Japan had such a high rate of suicide. I can't begin to imagine their despair.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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