Japan has a "minister of loneliness" for the first time. Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga created the role in early February. Mr Suga wanted to do something about the rise in suicide cases. More people are taking their own lives in the pandemic. Japan's police agency said 20,919 people died by suicide in 2020. This is 750 more than the year before. It is also the first two-year rise in suicides in 11 years. The minister told reporters: "I hope to promote activities that prevent loneliness and social isolation and to improve the ties between people."
The police agency said there was a bigger rise in suicides among women. Prime Minister Suga said women have been struggling with loneliness since the coronavirus pandemic started. He told reporters: "Women are suffering from isolation more than men are, and the number of suicides is...rising." There has been a 70 per cent increase in the number of women taking their own lives. A 23-year-old designer said she has suffered from loneliness. She said: "Not seeing people smile behind their mask makes me sad and lonely." She added: "I want to see happy faces."