Japanese activists sounded the alarm Wednesday over a sharp rise in suicides after a police report said the number of people who killed themselves up to June rose 4.7 percent on last year.
Urgent changes are needed to cope with the intensifying social problem, said Yasuyuki Shimizu of non-profit group Life Link.
In the first six months of the year, amid Japan's worst post-war recession, police recorded 17,076 suicides, up 768 or 4.7 percent from the same period last year, according to the National Police Agency.
Roughly 30 percent of suicides were linked financial problems, it said.
At the current pace, the figure could reach or possibly surpass Japan's worst annual record of 34,427 suicides, recorded in 2003.
For the past decade, Japan has seen more than 30,000 suicides every year.
The recession has taken its toll on many, especially men, said Yukiko Nishihara, founder of Tokyo Suicide Prevention Centre.
"On our suicide hotlines, we are hearing that people - some of them young men in their 30s - are tired of living and working and being laid off and trying to find jobs again," she said.
"We have to do something to help before people become so desperate."
Shimizu cautioned that people "take their lives for a complicated mix of reasons" and criticised fragmented government prevention programmes.
Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates, behind only a group of former Soviet bloc countries, according to the World Health Organisation.
Very sad. I would guess most suicides are working men who have lost their jobs or young school girls under pressure from their studies. Japan's always been 'tolerant' of suicides but with this spike, they should perhaps come up with some prevention programs. First step would be to outlaw these internet suicide groups that feel suicide alone is too lonely.