Many of you may recall a podcast we did a long time ago where I talked about the need for missionaries to head to Japan. I took a lot of heat for bringing religion into the podcast, but the fact is Japan has the 2nd highest suicide rate in the world. There are a lot of very sad people who are searching for answers.
“Generating hydrogen sulphide is not illegal under current laws, but the risk is high for third parties to inhale the gas and, in worst case scenarios, die,” the National Police Agency said in its statement, according to the AFP. The organization apparently sent the request to not only ISPs, but cable providers and other telecommunications companies as well. However, the request is only that: a request. Internal Affairs Minister Hiroya Masuda told the press that the government was not interested in blocking the questionable content, as it would mean “excessive restrictions on freedom of expression.”
It’s no secret that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. The country had 48.4 suicides per 100,000 people in 2004, according to the World Health Organization (that number is second only to Russia’s, with a surprising 72.3 per 100,000 in 2004). It’s a problem that Japanese officials have taken seriously for some time now, but are still trying to figure out ways to fix. Unfortunately, suicide is one of those issues that cannot simply be fought by blocking information from a single source, like the Internet. People have been killing themselves for thousands of years. If there’s a will, there’s a way—Internet or no.
In fact, research recently published in the British Medical Journal even noted that, while suicide information is plentiful online, suicide rates of those between the ages of 15 and 34 in England have dropped over the last decade, right alongside the blossoming of the Internet age. If England can somehow find a way to reverse the trend, there’s hope for Japan, too. Education and outreach are much more productive methods of reducing the suicide rate than simply blocking or removing online information.