Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The number of suicides in Japan last year appear to be a record low last year, health officials said Friday citing preliminary figures.
Japan, which has struggled with its suicide rate for years, saw less than 20,000 in 2019. Officials said the decline coincides with active measures like consultation and therapy services for younger Japanese online. The number of suicides per 100,000 people dropped 0.7 percent last year, to 15.8.
The 2019 statistics marked the 10th consecutive year the suicide numbers have gone down. Officials said they hope to see the per-100,000 figure fall to 13 by 2026.
Officials also said the total number of Japanese deaths in 2019 declined by nearly 900, about 4 percent fewer than 2018.
"We need to face up to the reality that as many as about 20,000 people took their own precious lives," Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters. "To realize a society where nobody will be forced to commit suicide, we'll promote countermeasures steadily."
Ministry officials said the finalized suicide figure for 2019 will be reported in March, and it may surpass 20,000. even if it does, they said, it will probably be an all-time low. The current mark is 20,434 suicides, set in 1981.
"The fact that 20,000 people still die by suicide a year is a very unusual situation and is nothing to be optimistic about," said Yasuyuki Shimizu, who operates the Tokyo suicide-prevention nonprofit Lifelink. "Municipalities should do more to help their residents live their lives, and the government should support such policies more robustly."