Japan has appointed a “Minister of Loneliness” to take try and reduce loneliness and social isolation among its residents. The decision has been taken by the government as the country is now dealing with rising suicide rates, Tomohiro Osaki reported for the Japan Times, Insider reported.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, earlier this month, appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto as the Minister of Loneliness to tackle the rising suicide rates for the first time in 11 years. Sakamoto is already a minister in charge of dealing with Japan’s declining birthrate and promoting regional revitalisation, and will now also oversee government policies to deal with loneliness and isolation.
“Women are suffering from isolation more (than men are), and the number of suicides is on a rising trend,” Suga told Sakamoto on a February 12 news conference announcing the new role, according to the Japan Times. “I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively,” Sugo said while appointing Sakamoto as the Minister of Loneliness.
Loneliness has long been an issue in Japan, often discussed alongside “hikikomori,” or people who live in extreme social isolation. People have worked to create far-ranging solutions to this issue: Engineers in Japan previously designed a robot to hold someone’s hand when they’re lonely and one man charges people to “do nothing” except keep them company.