Japan Appoints ‘Loneliness Minister’ Due to Rising Pandemic Suicides, Especially Among Women

Loneliness Minister

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed regional revitalization minister Tetsushi Sakamoto to head a government measure to help those experiencing loneliness and isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a meeting on Feb. 12, the new Japanese prime minister addressed the growing number of suicide victims in Japan, mostly women, as the country continues to fight the coronavirus, according to Japan Times.

“Women are suffering from isolation more (than men are), and the number of suicides is on a rising trend. I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively,” Suga told Sakamoto.

At a news conference later that day, Sakamoto said he hopes to “carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people.”

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Sakamoto also pointed out several measures already in place, such as monitoring elderly people living alone and child poverty, The Asahi Shimbun reported.

An emergency forum will take place sometime in late February, where Sakamoto will listen to nonprofit organizations that have helped people experiencing loneliness and isolation. Support measures for those in need of assistance will also be discussed.

Other lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party also volunteered to study the issue that has involved several government agencies.

In addition to being a loneliness minister, Sakamoto was also tasked to play a central role in putting policy initiatives into practice in the Cabinet Secretariat. He is currently “in charge of promoting dynamic engagement of all citizens” and improving the declining birthrate.

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Last year, Japan recorded a total of 2,153 deaths from suicide in October, while the deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic — as of Nov. 27 — were only at 2,087.

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