Japan's employers should provide mental health services to workers suffering from depression and other illnesses, the government said Friday after reporting that more than 30,000 people killed themselves last year.
In its first annual report on suicide and suicide prevention measures, the Cabinet Office said 32,155 people killed themselves in 2006, the 9th straight year the figure has exceeded 30,000.
The total number of suicides represents a drop of 397 from the previous year, the government said. Still, Japan's suicide rate ranks 9th highest in the world, the government added, citing World Health Organization data. Lithuania had the highest rate, followed by Belarus and Russia, while the U.S. ranked 43.
Health problems were believed to factor in almost 50 percent of the Japan's suicides in 2006, followed by money problems and household difficulties, the report said. Forty-eight percent of those who killed themselves were unemployed, it said.
Suicides first passed the 30,000 mark in 1998 during an economic slump that left many bankrupt, jobless and desperate.
"This is a problem that needs to be dealt with comprehensively by society," government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura said at a news conference.
The central government and local authorities should work together to implement a law approved in June that calls on employers to offer mental health services to employees, Machimura said.
Other measures implemented by the government in June aim to tackle unemployment and filter Web sites that promote suicide. The government's goal is to cut the suicide rate by 20 percent in 10 years. ( AP )