Russia is swamped by a suicide wave among teenagers. Over the last ten days six school age kids voluntarily committed suicide. All of them were from good families and all did well at school. And what is more interesting, many of them were avid fans of Japanese anime. Can anime really provoke suicidal mood? What drives the generation of IPad and Twitter to end their lives? Olga Makhovskaya, a leading specialist on children and teenage psychology talks about the influence of Japanese animation on unformed kid's psychic.
«Of course anime by itself cannot be the cause of teenage suicides. But it is a visual art that attracts many teenagers and that intensifies all their feelings. And death, the heroics of death that is typical of the Japanese culture a lot more than other cultures, often serves as a measure of friendship or loyalty. To jump down from a high-rise together holding each other's hand – it is specifically typical of girls' behavior. Heroic adventures of girls, stories of inseparable friendship between girls – these are all anime stories. I know how much our kids like Japanese anime sometimes starting as early as at the age of 6. It is a whole subculture that despite varying story lines and styles all romanticizes death. And one cannot exclude indirect influence. Anime also erases borderline between reality and virtual culture. Sometimes virtual culture due to its graphic imagery appears to be brighter and richer than real life. Teenage suicides have one specific thing in common: they don't realize that it is the absolute end and that there will be nothing afterwards. They don't understand how irreversible death is. In their minds it is really just a transition to some other world...»
In anime there are oftentimes characters that simply chase death, asking for trouble, but death passes them by only to grab those who had no plans to die. There are also characters with a philosophic view of life and death that claim that life is just a game.
It has been noticed that suicides among kids are more frequent after long vacation periods, when conflicts at school are aggravated or resumed, as well as conflicts between kids and their parents, which is the cause of most suicides. Sometimes this impulsive decision to kill oneself is connected to overwhelming emotions. It is not so much an attempt to end one’s life, but a cry for help, attempt to draw attention to oneself and one’s problems. But sometimes suicide is a planned out act with the sole purpose to end one's life at all cost. Life can become so intolerable for teenagers that they seek means to leave this world, they visit web sites that cultivate the theme of death, where one can make an agreement with likeminded teenagers about the «last step».
According to statistics, there are 4,000 suicide attempts in Russia every year, of which 1,500 actually result in death. However, teenage suicides happen not only in Russia. Japan remains in the top ten countries as far as teenage suicide rate goes. In2007 the Japanese government published the White Book on fighting suicides that lists 46 measures to fight suicides. The Japanese specialists shared some of the measures used in Japan with their Russian colleagues.
A few years ago a representative of the Japanese Parliament who oversaw the specific issue of stopping teenage suicides and the president of the International Federation of Cheerleaders visited Saint Petersburg. It is a known fact that teenagers feel more secure if they belong to a certain group. After in-depth study of numerous cases of teenage suicides Japanese scientists and psychologists decided to use this instrument in the shaping of the psychic of a growing kid. Cheerleading like nothing else builds team spirit among teenagers, allows them to feel friendly support, teaches leadership skills, optimism and successfulness. It is no accident that over 3 million Japanese teenagers are engaged in cheerleading, and it is an obligatory subject in the Japanese secondary school curriculum. After the visit of the Japanese delegation to Saint Petersburg active rise of cheerleading began here. And many parents now mention with gratitude that before cheerleading classes their kids were more abrasive and introverted, did not do as well at school and had bad habits, while now they were cheerful and cordial.