Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Suicide Forest

Called the "Suicide Forest" as well as the "Sea of Trees," the Aokigahara Forest is known for two things in Japan - breathtaking views of Mount Fuji and suicides. The location is so infamous, I highlighted it in my book, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2004).

Now it is back in the news, being discussed by wire services and media globally, in line with current stock market and related woes.

Japan's suicide rate, already one of the world's highest, has increased with the recent economic downturn.

There were 2,645 suicides recorded in January 2009, a 15 per cent increase from the 2,305 for January 2008, according to what the Japanese government has reported to CNN.

Suicide rates are a priority for the Japanese government, which has pledged to cut the number by more than 20 per cent by 2016. However, officials fear the number will rise with the economic crises adding to unemployment and bankruptcies.

"Unemployment is leading to this," Toyoki Yoshida, a suicide and credit counsellor, told CNN. "Society and the government need to establish immediate countermeasures to prevent suicides. There should be more places where they can come and seek help."

Yoshida has posted signs in Aokigahara Forest urging suicidal visitors to call their organization, a credit counselling service (!).

Local authorities say they are the last resort to stop people from killing themselves in the forest and have posted security cameras at the entrances of the forest.

Imasa Watanabe of the Yamanashi Prefectural Government fears more suicidal visitors will turn up in the coming weeks.

"Especially in March, the end of the fiscal year, more suicidal people will come here because of the bad economy," he told CNN.

Thanks for the information forwarded by Curt Rowlett.

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