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Child suicides in Japan hit record high


Japan recorded 415 suicides among schoolchildren aged 6 to 18 in the 2020 school year, the highest number since the records began in 1974.

A range of factors were behind the suicides, including family problems, poor school performance, relationships with other children and illness, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. The reason for more than half of the suicides reported last year was unknown, NHK said.

This figure was 31% higher than the previous school year, when 317 schoolchildren had died.

“The increase in suicides is extremely alarming,” Eguchi Arichika, head of the children’s and student affairs division of Japan’s education ministry, told NHK.

The Japanese Ministry of Education conducts an annual survey of schools at all levels and compiles data on suicides, bullying and truancy.

Wednesday’s report also found that more than 190,000 elementary and secondary school students were absent from class for 30 days or more last year, NHK said. That’s a record – and about 8% more than the year before.

“The results show that the pandemic has caused changes in the school and family environment and has had an impact on children’s behavior,” Eguchi said. “I want to promote efforts to make it easier to share the ways that people can find help and ensure that children who cannot go to school can continue to learn.”

It is not known to what extent pandemic lockdowns have contributed to the increase in school absences. Primary and secondary schools were closed in Japan from March to the end of May 2020. The Japanese school year begins in April and ends the following March.

The investigation showed that about 30,000 students have been away from school for 30 days or more due to concerns about the coronavirus infection, NHK reported.