- Screenshot Via CNN
September 1 is typically around the start of a new semester in Japan, right after the summer holiday.
It is also the most popular day for Japanese students to commit suicide, according to government figures cited by the BBC.
“Between 1972 and 2013, of the 18,048 children who killed themselves, on average 92 did so on 31 August, 131 on 1 September, and 94 on 2 September,” the BBC reports.
Suicides were also prevalent in early April, the start of the spring semester, according to the BBC.
Japan is known for having one of the highest suicide rates among developed countries. About 70 people – mostly men – commit suicide each day, on average, which experts link in part to economic and social pressures stemming from a patriarchal society.
Japan has the third-highest suicide rate among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries, who as a whole had an average rate of about 12 suicides per 100,000 people in 2012. Japan’s suicide rate that year was 18.7 per 100,000 people.
In recent years, however, the number of suicides has fallen among the general population. Yet during the same period, the number of suicides among Japan’s young people has actually risen, according to data cited by the International Business Times.
CNN has a good chart showing the spike in student suicides at the beginning of September:
— CNN International (@cnni) September 1, 2015
Some students have connected the suicides with rampant bullying in Japan’s schools. Roughly 90% of the students surveyed in a recent Japanese government report “said they have both bullied and been bullied,” the BBC reports.
“I felt helpless because I hated all the rules – not just the school’s rules but also the rules among kids. For example, you have to observe the power structure carefully not to get bullied. Even then, if you choose not to join the bullies, you can become their next target,” Shikoh Ishi, who edits a newspaper for students who refuse to go to school, told the BBC.
For students who are bullying victims, the summer break can provide a needed respite from school, which may make the beginning of the new semester that much harder.
“The long break from school enables you to stay at home, so it’s heaven for those who are bullied,” bullying victim Nanae Munemasa told CNN. “When summer ends, you have to go back. And once you start worrying about getting bullied, committing suicide might be possible.”