Number of kids in Japan feeling suicidal may have increased during pandemic

TOKYO, Nov 26 (NHK) - A group of Japanese researchers says a survey it carried out suggests the number of children feeling suicidal in the country may have increased after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Researchers at the National Center for Child Health and Development and others conducted a survey at 31 medical institutions across Japan that specialize in mental health care for children. The aim of the survey was to determine whether any changes had occurred in the mental health of children before and after the onset of the pandemic.

The survey found that, during fiscal 2022, which ended in March 2023, 214 first-time patients under the age of 20 were diagnosed as suicidal by doctors. In fiscal 2019, before the pandemic began, the figure was 135. That represents an increase of about 60 percent.

By gender, 166, or more than 70 percent of those patients, were women.

In fiscal 2022, 110 young people attempted suicide before they visited one of the institutions. In comparison, the number in fiscal 2019 was 63. That represents an increase of about 70 percent.

Dr. Koeda Tatsuya, the deputy head of the National Center for Child Health and Development, says restrictions imposed to curb infections may have negatively affected the ability of children to communicate.

He said the number of children who have suicidal thoughts may be increasing. The doctor stressed that society needs to create an environment in which children can feel at ease.

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