32,552 killed selves in 2005; suicide prevention bill eyed
 The number of suicides in Japan increased by 227 to 32,552 in 2005, or an average of one every 16 minutes, National Police Agency statistics showed Thursday. 
 The figure exceeded 30,000 for the eighth consecutive year, and was the fourth highest since the NPA started compiling such statistics in 1978. 
 The NPA also provided reasons for the suicides based on wills, notes or information provided by family members and friends. 
 Nearly half of the suicides in 2005, or 15,014, were due to health problems, an increase of 228 from 2004, according to the statistics. 
 The second largest group, at 7,756 people, killed themselves because of debts or other financial problems. 
 According to the NPA, the number of money-related suicides ranged between 1,000 and 3,000 until 1995. However, the figure exceeded 6,000 in 1998, when Japan's gross domestic product decreased, and has remained above that mark for eight straight years. 
 Many of those suicides were committed by people who lost their jobs or were forced to declare bankruptcy. 
 In fact, the figure has broken the 7,000-level for four consecutive years, although last year's figure was 191 fewer than that of the previous year. 
 The third-largest group in 2005, or 3,019, killed themselves due to family problems, followed by 1,807 people who committed suicide because of problems in their workplaces. 
 At least 809 people took their lives over problematic relationships with members of the opposite sex, while 233 killed themselves because of problems at school, the statistics showed. 
 Males accounted for 23,540, or 72 percent, of the suicides. 
 By age, 10,894 were in their 60s or older, followed by 7,586 in their 50s, and 5,208 in their 40s. 
 The number of suicides of people under the age of 20 was 608, including 215 senior high school students, 66 junior high school students and seven elementary school children, according to the NPA. 
 The continued high number of suicides has been considered such a social problem that a bill was compiled requiring central and local governments, companies and other organizations to take measures to prevent suicides. 
 Ruling and opposition party lawmakers agreed Thursday on the contents of the bill. 
 The bill will be submitted, and likely passed, during the current Diet session. 
 The legislation requires company owners to take measures to maintain the mental health of their workers. 
 The central and local governments are also required to: 
 ・Conduct research and surveys concerning suicide prevention; 
 ・Maintain human resources to implement suicide prevention measures; 
 ・Offer sufficient medical services for those suffering from mental illnesses; and 
 ・Establish a system to detect early signs that a person is suicidal.(IHT/Asahi: June 2,2006)

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