The AFP reports on the latest in a string of group suicides in Japan:
Nine people were found dead in two cars outside Tokyo today in what were believed to be the latest in a series of macabre suicide pacts involving charcoal burners that have swept Japan.Okay, theat's pretty bad. Why are so many Japanese people killing themselves?
...Nearly 50 people have died in similar suicides since early October.
The answer may shock you: the Internet!
In December, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) warned that the rash of group suicides in Japan was a worrying sign of the Internet's potential for encouraging suicide pacts.No word on how Dr. Rajagopal feels about that other horrific suicide-enanbling device, the telephone, which, reports say, allows people to communicate over vast distances. Or about the potential for suicidal people to use the Internet to find the help they need. Heck, I surf the web every day, and the only time I feel even a little bit suicidal is when my connection drops out.
In an editorial in the magazine, London consultant psychiatrist Sundararajan Rajagopal noted that the trend was "in contrast to traditional suicide pacts, in which the victims are people with close relationships."
He said it could be the start of "a new, disturbing trend in suicide pacts, with more such incidents, involving strangers meeting over the Internet, becoming increasingly common."
Instead of blaming technology, we should be looking at why these folks are so depressed in the first place:
Suicide rates rose after the economy began to slump in the 1990s.So, to get suicides down, Japan needs to get economic growth up. And while there are plenty of structural problems in Japan's economy that need to be addressed, one thing that will help pull Japan out of its slump is the Internet.
Besides increasing overall efficiency and inspiring new companies and business models, the Internet can also make people happier. In fact, Japan is promoting Internet use for precisely that reason.
From another AFP article:
Japan has launched a pilot Internet program with the aim of having 20 percent of the nation’s workforce telecommute from home by 2010, cutting down on the stress and family disruption caused by office life.The Internet: Keeping families together.