September 1 is the worst day in Japan for teen suicide. It is also my birthday..
So, why September 1? Lets start at the beginning. The Japanese school year runs from April to March; with many of the same breaks like we have at the same time: spring break at the end of march, summer break in July and August, and winter break at the end of the calendar year. The other thing that is important to know is the incredible pressures that the Japanese students face. They MUST perform well in school, fit in with their classmates, join a club and thrive in it, and then there are bullies. Bullying, taunting and intense social pressures are a part of everyday life for most Japanese students.
In America, we know how bullying can affect students: it is estimated that 160,000 American students skip school to avoid bullies every day, and 1 in 10 students eventually drop out of school because of repeat bullying. Bullying can lead to depression and other mental health problems.
In Japan, because of social pressure to succeed, skipping school is not an option and dropping out of school can bring shame on your family. In a culture that has embraced suicide for at least 700 years, it is a much more acceptable solution to a Japanese student (in their mind) than to remove themselves from the situation. As August winds down and students start thinking about going back to school to face all these things, some choose suicide over facing their bullies and social pressures.
With that in mind, the Shims2Japan team is launching the #Hope4Japan campaign. We are asking anyone who would like to join our campaign to do 1-3 random acts of kindness over the course of 3 days: August 30, 31 and September 1. Then share your story on social media using #Hope4Japan.
Why random acts of kindness? Before I get into that, I should explain random acts of kindness if you are not familiar with the phrase. A random act of kindness is seeing something that can be done for someone and doing it; it can be for a stranger or anonymously for a friend. Some examples include: paying for another table’s ticket in a restaurant, leaving a nice bouquet of flowers on someone’s doorstep, helping an older person who might be struggling to get their groceries into their car, smiling at someone who looks down, send a care package to deployed soldiers, or mow your neighbor’s lawn. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. When you do a random act of kindness for someone, you are helping them to remember that there are good people in the world, and people who care about them. You never know how this can affect their lives. We can’t all go to Japan to bring hope and try to invoke change on this day, but we can all do something where we are.
P.S. Click here for a terrific article about someone who was profoundly affected by a random act of kindness.