Almost one in two young people in Japan have had suicidal thoughts, a Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization said in a survey, calling for greater public awareness to prevent suicide.

Of 14,555 people aged 18 to 29 surveyed by the Nippon Foundation, 44.8 percent had experienced suicidal ideation in the face of troubles such as difficult relationships with people close to them, bullying and worry about future educational or career paths.

Of the 44.8 percent, 40 percent said they had attempted suicide or taken some steps toward preparing to kill themselves.

Trauma, such as from sexual abuse and bullying, played a great role, and when compounded, increased the likelihood of such thoughts.

People walk in Tokyo's Shibuya district on April 30, 2023. (Kyodo)

The foundation released the results in April after compiling data from an online survey it conducted from Nov. 10 to 18.

In Japan, suicide was the leading cause of death among young people for both sexes in 2019, 2020, and 2021, health ministry data shows. In those years, 2,117, 2,521 and 2,611 in the age bracket of 20 to 29 years killed themselves, according to the police.

In 2022, 2,483 people in that age group committed suicide, according to the agency.

According to the Nippon Foundation survey, one out of seven people surveyed had experienced sexual violence. They were 37 percentage points more likely to think of suicide than those who had not.

The organization also said that transgender and nonbinary people are more likely to have experienced sexual assault and greater suicidal ideation than their cisgender peers.

Transgender and nonbinary people, and those who preferred not to answer if their gender aligned with their sex at birth, made up 10 percent of respondents. In this group, 52.4 percent had experienced suicidal ideation.

The Nippon Foundation highlighted the unwillingness of those who felt suicidal to speak about it as well as their unawareness of public organizations that could help them.

More than half of those who considered suicide did not speak to anyone about it, the organization found, with the main reason given being that they did not think it was something they could discuss.

Friends topped the list of those who suicidal people opened up to, at 12.4 percent. Only 2.4 percent took advantage of the "public consultation window," which was less than the 4.5 percent of people who spoke with someone whom they first met through social media.

The foundation noted that most of those respondents who had not experienced suicidal thoughts were unaware of helpful public organizations. It said that the lack of awareness could potentially prevent necessary support.

"As long as the wall 'of not knowing' remains, even if the suicidal person speaks to someone, he or she may not be directed to a support group," it said.

It called for a supportive society where everyone recognizes that they themselves might find themselves such a situation.

Emergency service in Japan: 119

If you are having suicidal thoughts, help is available.

For Japan, call Yorisoi Hotline at 0120279338 (toll-free). Press 2 after the recorded message for consultation in English, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese, Nepali, or Indonesian. The service in these languages is also available on Facebook messenger.

For those outside Japan, you can find a list of other resources here