The latest survey shows 250 elementary and high school age children took their own lives in that year for a variety of reasons including bullying, family issues and stress, the country’s Ministry of Education said Monday, according to local media.
Those figures were 5 up on the previous year, and the highest since 1986, when 268 pupils died.
“The number of suicides of students have stayed high, and that is an alarming issue which should be tackled,” ministry official Noriaki Kitazaki told reporters. He said the cause of the rise was unclear.
Most of those who killed themselves were high school students. The government previously recorded an annual spike in suicides on September 1, the start of the new school year.
Munemasa considered suicide herself due to bullying, before going public with her story in an attempt to help other young people.
“We’d love to eliminate such tragedies altogether, but the reality is several hundred children are taking their lives (each year),” education ministry official Koju Matsubayashi told the newspaper. “It’s important to teach children how to get help as soon as possible … because it becomes harder and harder to find help once they’re already suffering. The light at the end of the tunnel gets darker and darker until they begin to start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as death.”
While Japan has long struggled with high suicide rates — it is the leading cause of death among young people — the issue also persists across the wider Asia-Pacific region.