Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed regional revitalization minister Tetsushi Sakamoto as a part-time minister of loneliness to address the issue of loneliness and isolation.
Due to the covid pandemic, the lack of social gatherings during Japan’s fight against the coronavirus has left people feeling increasingly stressed and lonely, which been blamed for the first uptick in Japanese suicides in 11 years.
The isolation is becoming increasingly serious during these tough times in the country. Sakamoto will work as the coordinator for efforts across multiple ministries and agencies.
“Women especially are feeling more isolated and face increasing suicide rates,” PM Suga told Sakamoto. “I’d like you to examine the issue and put forward a comprehensive strategy,” he said.
Sakamoto is slated to assemble a team dedicated to interagency communication and will host an emergency forum with advocacy groups and other players as early as this month to identify top priorities. Suga, in particular, noted a rise in suicides among women, he said.
“I hope to promote activities that prevent loneliness and social isolation and protect the ties between people,” Sakamoto told reporters following their meeting. His other cabinet responsibilities include regional revitalization, as well as addressing Japan’s falling birthrate.
Sakamoto said he could coordinate with the health ministry on suicide prevention and with the agricultural ministry on food banks, for example. “We will work on a comprehensive approach to arrange a wide range of measures,” he said.