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Japan: Basic Act on Suicide Prevention Amended

(June 7, 2016) Japan’s Basic Act on Suicide Prevention was amended on March 30, 2016; the amendment act became effective on April 1, 2016. (Act to Amend Basic Act on Suicide Prevention, Act No. 11 of 2016.)

The amended Act obligates municipalities, in addition to prefecture governments, to establish suicide prevention plans. (Act on Suicide Prevention, Act No. 85 of 2006, amended by Act No. 11 of 2016, art. 13 ¶ 2.) National and local governments must facilitate coordination of various mental health professionals and civic groups for suicide prevention. (Id. art. 18.) National and local governments are also to implement measures to educate business owners and school teachers and staff about suicide prevention. For college and high school teacher and staff training, the special characteristics of college and high school education must be taken into consideration. Schools must also endeavor to enhance mental health promotion and education in general. (Id. art. 17.)

Background

Since 1998, more than 30,000 people per year in Japan have committed suicide. (2015 White Paper on Suicide Prevention in Japan – Digest Version, Ch. 1, Cabinet Office website (click on Section 1: Current Situation of Suicide).) The Basic Act on Suicide Prevention (Act No. 85 of 2006) was enacted in 2006 to improve the situation. This Act provides measures to promote suicide prevention and to help the relatives of people who died by suicide. (The Basic Act on Suicide Prevention, art. 1.)

In 2007, the Cabinet adopted the General Principles of Suicide Prevention as a guideline for measures to be promoted by the Government, based on the Basic Act on Suicide Prevention. (2012 White Paper on Suicide Prevention in Japan – Digest Version, Ch. 2 § 1, Cabinet Office website (click on Chapter 2: Basic Trends and Framework of Suicide Prevention).) It was observed in 2014 that “[s]uicide rates among middle-aged men and the elderly are falling. The declines have been observed in many localities, including urban areas.” However, “the rate of suicide among young people in Japan is still high.” (Japan Turning a Corner in Suicide Prevention, World Health Organization website (Sept. 2014).)  In 2015, the total number of suicides was 24,025. (Office for Suicide Prevention Policy, Cabinet Office, Situation of Suicides During 2015, at 2 (Mar. 18, 2015), Cabinet Office website (in Japanese).)