Hatoyama Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.20 (February 26, 2010)
Yukio Hatoyama's "Yu-Ai" -- Message from the Prime Minister
Last weekend, I visited an elementary school open to the members of the local community. I also met with members of an organization working to make their neighborhoods safe and secure through crime prevention activities, as well as people supporting postpartum mothers.
At the elementary school I visited, members of the local community have been actively engaged as volunteers in afterschool activities. I was able to observe up close teachers and members of the local community together instructing children to play wind instruments and to make taketombo*.
In this school, volunteer tutors are registered. For example, if a child has problems learning to do fractions, a tutor stays with the child and gives instructions attentively until the child understands.
These volunteers teach the children, and the children's eyes light up as they say, "I did it!" "I get it!" The smiles in the children's faces are the volunteers' reward; teaching brings happiness to them. Gain happiness by giving happiness. Isn't this activity one example of the "new public commons" that we should be seeking?
During these visits, I was particularly impressed to see women playing the leading role in each of these organizations. I came away thinking that it is important to create an environment at the center of our lives that makes it easy for the power and capabilities of women to come forth.
I want to create a society where each and every individual can be happy, and feel secure in one's role in it; that thought was reinforced by my visits over the weekend.
Meanwhile, each year for the last 12 years, over 30,000 people, or 90 people a day, have committed suicide in Japan. This is a truly heart-rending state of affairs.
In the first policy speech I delivered to the Diet, I talked about an old woman whose son had committed suicide. There is no end to the line of people who commit suicide, yet politics and the administrative authorities had become insensitive to this. I intend to change that.
March is when the number of suicides peaks every year. Accordingly, we, the government, have decided, for the first time, to designate March as the Month for Strengthening Countermeasures Against Suicide and take measures tailored to the various troubles and worries people suffer from.
One such measure is a campaign focusing on "Sleep." Inability to sleep well even if you are tired is said to be a sign of depression if it continues for more than two weeks. If there is someone close to you who suffers from insomnia, please push that person to have the courage to see a doctor. We will also reinforce mental health advice services at "Hello Work" employment security offices and in the workplace.
The issues surrounding suicide are very complicated, but why not begin by caring for those near us? Making Japan a society that reaches out to people with anxieties and seeks to protect each and every life, a society where people support each other -- that is my heartfelt desire.
* Taketombo is a traditional toy consisting of a small bamboo rotor on a stick that is spun to make it fly like a helicopter.
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