Japan has appointed its first Minister for Loneliness this month after the country’s suicide rate increased for the first time in 11 years during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to The Japan Times, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga tapped minister Tetsushi Sakamoto, who is simultaneously in charge of combating the nation’s falling birth rate and revitalizing regional economies, for the new portfolio. This appointment follows the example of UK, which in 2018 became the first country to create a similar role.
“Women are suffering from isolation more (than men are), and the number of suicides is on a rising trend. I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively,” Suga told Sakamoto at a meeting.
At a news conference later in the day, Sakamoto said, “I hope to carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people.”
He revealed plans to hold an emergency forum in late February to listen to opinions from those helping people who face loneliness and isolation and discuss support measures. The Japanese PM plans to attend the forum.
Japan has recorded more than 426,000 Covid-19 cases and 7,577 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.