Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has appointed a “minister of loneliness” to his Cabinet in order to combat the rise of suicide that has taken place in the country due to the pandemic. Earlier this month, Suga reportedly chose Tetsushi Sakamoto to take on the role in addition to his work “combating the nation’s falling birth rate and revitalizing regional economies,” The Japan Times reported.
With isolation connected to lots of social difficulties including suicide, poverty and hikikomori (social recluses), the Cabinet Office also reportedly established a task force that will address the problem of loneliness across different ministries, including by looking into its impact.
The move comes as new numbers were released by Japan’s National Police Agency that showed 20,919 people in Japan committed suicide in 2020. This is an increase from the previous year, making it the “first year-on-year increase in 11 years.” The rise is reportedly largely due to a significant increase in suicides among women