Listening to end loneliness in Japan

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This story contains a reference to suicide.

Koki’s story

“In the past, I had problems, I was in pain, and every day felt like hell,” says Koki Ozora.
When his parents divorced while he was in elementary school, Koki went to live with his father, which he found extremely difficult.
“I wanted to die and that feeling lasted a long time,” Koki says.
“I couldn’t eat and I was hospitalized.”
But for Koki, the hardest part of his depression was not being able to talk to anyone about how he felt.
“I didn’t tell others about my family or my own issues,” he says.

“In Japan, they say men should be strong. It’s a sign of weakness to rely on anyone.

Koki Ozora suffered from depression as a child.

Years later, after emerging from her deep depression and now understanding firsthand the lack of available services, Koki, 22, launched a chat counseling platform for others considering suicide.

Anata no Ibasho, which means “A place for you,” is a 24-hour online helpline for suicide and loneliness prevention.
“I created the chat counseling service ‘Anata no Ibasho’ with the aim of ensuring that people can always contact someone,” he says.
Koki claims that it is the first and only online service of its kind in Japan.

“We have over 600 volunteers in 25 countries. They can speak Japanese natively. That’s why we can open 24/7.

Since its inception in 2020, the organization has received over 200,000 messages.
Of those who contact us, about 80% are teenagers or in their early twenties, and about 70% are women.
Managing the large number of cases has been difficult and the service relies on a triage system.
“First, our texters speak with our AI chatbot. When our algorithm decides if the texter is in serious condition, our volunteer advisors speak to them.

Mira was one such case.

Mira’s story

“Depression hits me every month and when it hits I lie in bed for several days with a strong desire to kill myself.”

A young woman in a white shirt looks down.

Mira received support through Anata no Ibasho.

Mira had been struggling with depression for a long time when she contacted Anata no Ibasho.

Following a rupture, she was hospitalized three times in three months after an overdose of prescription drugs.
She then quit her job and retired from the company.
“I couldn’t manage my work or my private life,” says Mira.
“I didn’t know what I should do.

“I wanted to get away from it all and die.”

Two people are sitting in front of computers wearing masks.

Anata no Ibasho has more than 600 volunteers in 25 countries.

Reaching out to Anata no Ibasho gave him hope.

After a series of online sessions and an in-person meeting with a counselor, she began to see an improvement in her mental health.
“It was a big help to be able to shout ‘help’.
I am happy to be able to express what I really feel, that alone makes it extremely valuable to me.

“The answer touched my heart and I was able to calm down. I now feel a little better.

A national response

Koki’s work with individuals has led him to see the extent to which depression and anxiety disorders are taking over Japan.
In 2021, more than 21,000 people committed suicide in Japan, according to figures from the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
While the rate among women has increased by 15%, according to the most recent figures available, suicide rates among women under the age of 20 have increased by 44% compared to 2019 figures.

Koki assessed her personal exchanges, relevant data, and extensive research by experts in the field and identified a root cause: loneliness.

A young man wearing a mask looks at another person in the foreground.

Koki Ozora has lobbied the Japanese government to do more to support people struggling with mental health issues.

“We proposed to the government to have a Minister for Solitude and Social Isolation,” explains Koki.

“We did well in lobbying because the government decided to do so.”
Japan appointed a Minister for Solitude, Tetsushi Sakamoto, in February 2021 with plans to introduce policy measures to ease social isolation, including monitoring and evaluating care for those already isolated.
This follows the UK’s pre-pandemic creation of a Solitude Wallet in 2018.
The hope with the introduction of the role in Japan is that the country’s suicide rate, the second highest among developed G7 countries, will decrease as the underlying problem of loneliness is addressed.
Organizations like Anata no Ibasho are an integral part of this approach.

According to Japan’s National Police Agency, in the first 6 months of 2022, Japan’s loneliness and suicide prevention programs like Anata no Ibasho are said to have reduced suicides by 3.7%, saving 338 lives.

People stand on the side of a road in Japan with lots of bright lights in the background.

It is hoped that loneliness and suicide prevention programs like Anata no Ibasho will help reduce the suicide rate in Japan.

Koki says listening and offering support can mean the difference between life and death.

“While speaking [for] 10 to 20 minutes, we may not solve their fundamental problem, but we are able to reach out to reduce their suffering,” he says.
“One of our advisors often says, ‘Listening to others can change the world.
Readers looking for crisis help can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged up to 25).
More mental health information and support is available at and at 1300 22 4636.
supports people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

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