The Japanese suicide rate has risen to the highest rate in at least half a decade, police data revealed this week.

While suicide has long been a serious and widespread issue in Japan, numbers have skyrocketed in recent months as the covid-19 pandemic wears on. As of October of 2020, over 13,000 lives have been lost to suicide.

While the numbers of those taking their own lives in Japan were initially falling to record lows this year up until July, they have been steadily increasing for the past 4 months, and have now reached new heights not seen in the past five years. In October the suicide rate for women was 82.6% higher than October last year. The male suicide rate saw a 21.3% increase from 2019.

According to RT, the alarming trend is attributed to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the country’s economy, which explains why it appears to be disproportionately affecting women. Women have been more affected by job losses during the pandemic, particularly those who are part-time employees in the service or retail sectors. According to official government figures, Japan saw almost 900,000 job losses in the first 7 months of 2020.

Additionally, young people and children appear to be at risk, with many schools reporting high stress and bullying among students since schools re-opened.

Japan’s health and welfare ministry has appealed to citizens not to suffer alone, and the government has earmarked a sum of money for therapy and support groups for the general population.