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Japanese government to strengthen support for youth isolated amid pandemic


The government will address the issue of the growing number of young people isolated amid the prolonged novel coronavirus pandemic. It plans to draw up a revised outline on support for children and youth at the end of March, after which related ministries and agencies will work together to tackle the problem, sources said.

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According to a revised outline draft obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun, the government will place top priority on dealing with the problem of the increasing number of young people who commit suicide.

The draft noted that “many children and young people have become increasingly anxious, and the problem of ‘unwanted loneliness’ has become apparent” under the influence of the pandemic.

Regarding suicides by children and youth, the draft said: “There is concern about the impact of the coronavirus disaster. It is an extremely serious problem.”

Specifically, the draft calls for improving consultation systems using social media, promoting education on how to send out an “SOS” and creating places to stay to prevent isolation.

According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, a record-high 479 students of elementary, junior high and high school died by suicide last year, up by 140 from the previous year.

The main reasons for the suicides were said to be poor academic performance, worries about their future and discord with parents.

The 2020 white paper on suicide prevention issued by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry reported that suicide was the leading cause of death for 15-39 year-olds.

The draft emphasized the need to take measures to support so-called “young carers” who take care of their family members in need of nursing care, and do housework by themselves. Young people who bear such burdens tend to have problems in school life. The importance of preventing cruel words against children and youth on social media was also mentioned in the draft.

The draft also calls for the creation of a “Children and Youth Index” to show results of public opinion surveys and the progress of measures taken by the central government, as well as relevant data such as suicide statistics and the poverty rate.

The index will be updated on an official government website and elsewhere, and will be used for such purpose as policymaking by a newly established office in the Cabinet Secretariat in charge of the isolation issue. It will also be used for research and study by private-sector entities.

The government plans to seek public opinions on the draft in February and is to make an official decision at the government’s children and youth policy promotion headquarters, headed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in late March.

Published : February 25, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN