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1. Internet Suicide Japan

Good to see an article that focuses more on the detailed analysis of both individual and group suicides in Japan, rather than the majority of the more sensational and sometimes hysterical articles towards the end of 2004, which in many cases focused almost solely on so called "internet suicide pacts", "internet suicide groups" and some cases, "internet suicide clubs" (based only on the self styled name of one suicidal individual's homepage).

It is worth noting that The National Police Agency statistics show that group suicide through gas inhalation also increased, with 3,538 people involved. The term group suicide here includes many different situations where people have died together, from a couple who had a chicken farm where a case of asian bird flu was reported, to businessmen whose company went bankrupt committing suicide together in hotel rooms.

The official statistics for the total number of people who actually died in group suicides where the victims made initial contact through "internet suicide sites" have yet to be released for 2004, but is estimated by one expert psychiatrist in the field to be "less than 50" in total. The National Police Agency last reported statistic was for 2003, when a total of 34 people died in group suicides after it seems they made initial contact through the internet.

A lack of in depth background research by some sections of the press and other media in both Japan and in countries abroad, and, in some cases of reports in English, actual errors and a seeming lack of confirming the reliability of the statistics from the original sources in Japanese, may have been one of the factors focusing attention away from the underlying economical and psychological causes of suicide in Japan.

I would urge the more responsible television reporters and newspaper and magazine journalists who will be reporting on the annual suicide figures published annually in detail in Japanese (by both The National Police Agency and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor) to take greater care in 2005 and in the future in the reporting of suicide (and in the reporting of all other mental health care related issues in Japan). Responsible media reporting could help more by focusing on all of the central crucial issues related to suicide prevention, and discourage those less caring members of their craft from sensationalizing and even encouraging the use of the internet as a way to commit suicide. The problem of groups of depressed and suicidal people who use the internet to arrange group suicide has been the main topic of focus of most wire service and world media reporting of all mental health issues for which reports and statistics inJapan have been released. Group suicides arranged through internet suicide chat rooms is only one way of the many ways and methods used by well over 30,000 people in Japan every year since 1998. The total of people who have committed suicide in groups of strangers is 180 in a three year period from 2002 to 2005. Although a tragic loss of life in itself, this relatively low number is only 0.002% of the total of number of people in Japan, many of whom were unemployed and depressed, who felt there situation was hopeless lost their lives in Japan during the same three year period (2002 - 32143, 2003 - 34,427, 2004 - 32,325. Three year total: 98895).

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