In the light of mental health awareness, Japan has appointed its first minister for loneliness this month after the country’s suicide rate increased for the first time in 11 years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Japan Times, this was following the example of the UK, which in 2018 became the first country to create a similar post.
CNN Reported that the Japanese government also created an “isolation/loneliness countermeasures office” within the cabinet to chief both suicide and child poverty.
The country has recorded more than 4,26,000 COVID-19 cases and 7577 deaths according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The initial days of the lockdown were a break that we all needed – from binge-watching our favorite series and movies, baking, reading, writing, house-partying (via video calls) to messing up our entire sleep schedule – it really had been all fun and games.
But after months of laying on our bed and doing nothing, it was time to move on and be productive. There the lockdown effects hit us all. We began feeling lonely and worthless. We started questioning our decisions and schedules. The need to talk to someone was felt, but there was nothing to talk about. Certainly, these experiences took a toll on our mental health, and the situation has only worsened since. In such circumstances, the decision of The Japanese Prime Minister is worthy of appreciation.
Minister Tetsushi Sakamoto, who is also in charge of combating the nation’s falling birth rate and revitalising regional economies, was offered the new portfolio (Minister of Loneliness). In his inaugural press conference, Mr. Sakamoto stated that his responsibilities also extended to addressing matters of the women’s increasing suicide rates.
“Suga (Japanese Prime Minister) instructed me to examine the issue and put forward a comprehensive strategy by coordinating with the related ministry… I hope to carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people,” Mr. Sakamoto told CNN.