Source AP ©

Over 30,000 people kill themselves in Japan in 2006

In Japan 32,155 people killed themselves in 2006. Employers together with local and state authorities try to reduce the alarmingly high level of suicide.

While the figure was down by 397 people from the previous year, Japan 's suicide rate remains the ninth highest among all countries, the Cabinet Office report said, citing World Health Organization data. Lithuania had the highest rate, followed by Belarus and Russia , while the U.S. ranked number 43 in the world, according to the data.

Top government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura said economic bad times and difficulties in the workplace appeared to remain among the leading factors behind the high suicide rate.

"This is a problem that needs to be dealt with comprehensively by society," Machimura told reporters at a regular news conference. "Suicide can be thought of as an illness of the soul, and we need to find ways to treat it."

Machimura stressed the need for the central government and local authorities to work together at fully implementing a law approved in June that, in part, calls on employers to offer mental health care services to employees.

Health problems were believed to factor in almost 50 percent of the 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, near the height of an economic slump that left many bankrupt, jobless and desperate.

Japan has earmarked a substantial budget for programs to help those with depression and other mental conditions.

In June, the Cabinet also approved measures that set a goal of cutting the suicide rate by 20 percent in 10 years. The steps tackle unemployment, boosting workplace counseling and filter Web sites that promote taking one's own life.

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