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Okinawan men lead nation’s suicide statistics

Date Posted: 2003-02-22

Okinawa leads the nation in many statistics, but many are a cause of concern rather than something to be proud of. Per capita, there are more drivers arrested for drunk driving than anywhere else in Japan. Okinawa also leads the nation in divorce and jobless rates.

Officials have now revealed that the suicide rate among Okinawan men is the highest in Japan. While women in Okinawa enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world, the men are down to 26th in the nation, and one of the reasons is the high suicide rate.

A symposium held at Okinawa Convention Center in Ginowan City this week tried to find answers to the problem. Experts at the panel all agreed that tightening community ties is the key to preventing suicides. “Schools, families, companies and area community, all have a responsibility. People should care more for their fellows, and be ready to give a helping hand when necessary,” Yuichi Naka, a professor at the Medical Department at the University of the Ryukyus said.

Other panelists saw a need to improve training of medical professionals. “We need psychiatrists that are available at hospital emergency rooms, as there are many attempted suicides,” Okinawa Prefectural Hospital Medical Section Director Katsumi Oyafuso stated.

All agreed that the most important task is to create a system where anyone contemplating a suicide can contact someone and talk. “We must create well educated groups of volunteers who can then help a lot,” said Choyu Tokuyama of Okinawa Life Line, a volunteer organization that specializes in such tasks.

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