Japan appoints a ‘Minister of Loneliness’ to tackle pandemic side effects

Japan appoints Minister of Loneliness to tackle increasing suicide rates post pandemic
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Japan has appointed a Minister of Loneliness in its fight against the rising suicide cases in the country. The novel corornavirus pandemic and lockdown have led to increase in, isolation, loneliness and mental health issues.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto for the new role created in an attempt to reduce loneliness and social isolation among the country’s citizens amid rising suicide rates, the Japan Times reported

Japan appoints Minister of Loneliness

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Japan saw suicide rates rise for the first time in 11 years, at times proving more lethal than the virus itself.

According to Insider, the month of October was particularly deadly, with 2,153 suicide deaths that month. This number was more than the total number of COVID-19 deaths Japan had seen since the beginning of the pandemic, which at the time totaled 1,765. (As of February 22, Japan currently has recorded 7,506 total coronavirus deaths.)

The situation is particularly dire for women. In October, 879 women died by suicide, representing a 70 percent increase from the same month in 2019.

“Women are suffering from isolation more [than men are], and the number of suicides is on a rising trend,” the Prime Minister said on a February 12 news conference announcing Sakamoto’s new role as Minister of Loneliness.

Responsibilities of Tetsushi Sakamoto- Minister of Loneliness

According to media reports, the appointed minster will work as the coordinator for efforts across multiple ministries and agencies.

“I hope to promote activities that prevent loneliness and social isolation and protect the ties between people,” Sakamoto told reporters following their meeting. 

His other cabinet responsibilities include regional revitalisation, as well as addressing Japan’s falling birthrate, according to Nikkei Asia.

“I hope to carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people,” Sakamoto said at the February 12 news conference.

Japan isn’t the first country to appoint a loneliness minister. The UK appointed its first Minister of Loneliness back in 2018.