Ministry officials noted that the suicide rate among welfare recipients in 2010 was 55.7 people per 100,000, more than twice the national average of 24.9 per 100,000.
Ministry officials blame depression for being behind the high suicide rate and have pledged to take steps to strengthen measures against the debilitating mental illness.
“It’s no surprise to me, really,” said Kichi, a 42-year-old welfare recipient who lives at a halfway house in Tokyo. “Being on welfare is soul-destroying, humiliating and degrading.”
He added that it is easy to lose hope, even with a good support network. Breaking away from poverty that welfare locks you into is not as easy as it seems.
“Employers aren’t keen to take on people who’ve been on welfare, and if there is physical or mental illness it’s even worse,” Kichi said. “Living a life of rejection, loneliness and illness plus the strong sense of sponging off society that views you as a malingerer, I can understand why people become despondent and death becomes an attractive option.”
During 2010, the number of welfare recipients who took their own lives reached 1,047, about 80% lived alone. Of those who committed suicide 65.3%, had been undergoing treatment for mental illnesses such as depression.
The number of welfare recipients who committed suicide in 2010 was just two greater than in the previous year, but the suicide rate dropped slightly because of an increasing number of people receiving welfare.
National Policy Agency (NPA) figures showed that 31,690 took their own lives in 2010, the 13th consecutive year the number of annual suicides has exceeded 30,000. This year, 15,885 had already committed suicide in the six months to the end of June.
The NPA said the main reasons for suicide were health problems, followed by economic or lifestyle problems, family problems and work problems.