Apart from rising fuel costs, the Tibet issue and Japan’s most beloved panda, Rinrin, taking her last breath this morning, there has been a huge amount of media on the chain of recent suicides.
The reason these suicides have been so newsworthy are because they all took place using household items to create the poisonous gas, hydrogen sulfide. The first one of these suicides took place last year, and since then, the methods for creating this gas have been spreading across the Internet. Since the beginning of this year, these suicides have been growing in number, finally coming to a head and breaking into the media spotlight this April with an astonishing 59 suicides. The majority of these suicides have been people between the ages of 10 - 30 years old, the Asahi Shimbun reports.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, on April 25, called for the pharmaceuticals industry to be more aware of these suicides. They have requested for shop staff selling washing detergents and the other ingredients needed to make the gas to ask the customer what they plan to do with these items and to show ID. If their answers prove unsatisfactory, they may not be allowed to buy these products.
The most prominent issue seems to be the use of the Internet in helping these suicides take place. Many Internet sites explain how to mix washing detergents with other substances to create the poisonous gas. In Japan, the Internet laws do not count this type of information as illegal making it hard for the authorities to crack down on these sites. The Internet provider, Nifty, has announced that they will request for the owner of the site to remove the information by email but “We must also respect freedom of speech and communication, therefore we cannot unilaterally delete these sites.” The pharmaceutical companies have expressed great anger at these sites, saying “this is a matter of life and death.” They said that to change the substance of detergents would be very difficult and cost a large amount, and have decided to write “Do not mix with other substances” on the packaging instead.
Other sites such as Amazon Japan and Rakuten have taken the matter into their own hands by stopping the sales of washing detergents on their online shopping sites altogether.
The main problem with these types of suicides lies in the fact that a) a majority of these people are very young (including a 14 year old girl last week), b) easily accessible household items are being used, meaning almost anyone can buy these products and c) the internet is full of sites explaining how to make hydrogen sulfide (a quick Japanese Google search brings up 54,000 results).
But with no laws to limit any of the above factors, the solution appears to lie in the people themselves. Although the Japanese media have been focusing on how to stop these suicides, perhaps more focus should be on why so many young people are trying to take their lives? Is there another solution for their problems? How are the state helping these people? But unfortunately, there seems to be very little — if any — focus on the real problem.
Asahi Shimbun (Japanese): http://www.asahi.com/kansai/news/OSK200804290038.html
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