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FOR 10 CONSECUTIVE YEARS since 1998, the suicide rate in Japan has stayed relatively constant at around 25 per 100 000, which is the highest suicide rate among developed countries. On 28 March 2008, the Special Committee for Care for Suicide Attempters and Relatives Bereaved through Suicide established by the Japan Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (JMHLW) released its final report on the national policy and Guide to Guideline Preparation for Providing Care to Suicide Attempters.1 It is well known that a previous history of a suicide attempt is one of the potent risk factors for later suicide.

The report lists tasks including education and enlightenment for the understanding and support of suicidal individuals, caregiving at community and medical facilities including emergency departments and primary care, nurturing of caregivers, and research into self-harm and suicide attempts. The report mentions that support and care must be continuous, individualized, and flexible enough to deal with various situations, circumstances, and regional characteristics. It also highlights the necessity of promoting community mental health.

The Guide to Guideline Preparation was prepared to encourage subsets of society to create active guidelines. It describes the common points of and precautions for providing support and care that should be considered when preparing guidelines for suicide attempters and those who have suicidal ideation. The guide materially requires several types of guidelines to be created, such as those concerning primary health-care worker and welfare officers, mental health professionals, caregivers, primary care physicians and nurses, emergency medical staff, teachers, occupational health workers, and the police and fire departments.

The report and guide were announced 6 years after the World Health Organization announced eight guides for preventing suicide at various sites.2 Actual suicide prevention activities, however, have been developing faster in Japan. For instance, the Japan Diet approved the Basic Law on Suicide Countermeasures, which came into force in October 2006,3 the Cabinet set the National Suicide Prevention Measure Outline in 2007,4 and JMHLW continues to support strategic research for suicide prevention, aimed at developing methods of suicide prevention, community intervention, and suicide re-attempt prevention among suicide attempters (ACTION-J5). JMHLW has also supported 20 community intervention models to date.

The Special Committee intended for the report and guide to be widely distributed and used in the preparation of truly useful guidelines, by urging many people to become involved in suicide prevention because such efforts concern society as a whole.

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