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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Japan to tackle high suicide rate
Passengers on a Tokyo train, 15 June 06
Money worries and job stress are thought to be part of the problem
The Japanese parliament has approved a law ordering the government to tackle the country's high rate of suicide.

The law calls on central and local governments to produce policies that would reduce the number of suicides.

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates amongst industrialised nations, with 32,552 people committing suicide in 2005.

This was nearly five times the number of people who died in traffic accidents, police figures showed.

In recent months, cases of group suicide - where it is thought that the victims met via the internet - have attracted attention in Japan. In March, 13 people died in three such cases.

'Preventive measures'

The new law urges companies to provide mental health care for employees and calls for more research on suicide prevention.

Yasuyuki Shimizu of anti-suicide group Life Link said the law was a foundation for a coordinated approach to the problem.

"Conducting a survey to find out what drives people to kill themselves is the first thing that needs to be done, but we also should not wait to implement actual preventive measures," the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

Experts have blamed a variety of factors for the high suicide rate, including work-related stress and money worries.

Seventy-two percent of those who committed suicide in 2005 were men, the National Police Agency said, and almost half of all victims were unemployed.

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