The number of elementary, junior high and high school students who committed suicide in fiscal 2011 increased by 44 from the previous year to 200, the highest number in 25 years, according to an education ministry survey released Tuesday.
Four of them, all in junior high school, killed themselves due to bullying.
As for two high-profile suicides last year — a 13-year-old boy at a junior high in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, and a male 14-year-old junior high student in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture — the local boards of education reported to the ministry that their deaths were caused by bullying, but the ministry has not disclosed the details.
The reasons for suicide remain unknown in 115 of the cases, or 57.5 percent of the total, but ministry officials said reports from schools haven’t suggested that suicides stemming from bullying are increasing.
The National Police Agency has reported that 353 students committed suicide in calendar 2011, 153 more than in the education ministry’s fiscal 2011 survey.
The gap was because the ministry did not count cases in which the details were not reported by the police or cases that families did not want reported.
In fiscal 2011, the number of high school students who took their own lives came to 157, up 45 from the previous year, according to the education ministry. Suicides by junior high school students were down by four at 39, while four elementary school students killed themselves, up by three.
Most suicide victims were reported to have exhibited no unusual signs ahead of their deaths, according to the survey.
The reasons could not be determined for more than 70 percent of the elementary school and junior high cases.
The survey found that the number of bullying cases recognized by schools in fiscal 2011 care to around 70,000, down roughly 7,400 from the previous year.
However, it is difficult to prove if the figure has really fallen because there are new methods of bullying using the Internet and mobile phones that are hard to detect.
The number of recognized bullying cases stood at 33,000 at elementary schools, down 10 percent, 30,000 at junior high schools, down 8 percent, and 6,000 at high schools, down 14 percent.