Following in the footsteps of the United States, where the “It Gets Better” project started two years ago in order offer support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youths thinking of suicide, a new program in Japan hopes to do the same. Fumino Sugiyama, a co-founder of the project, which loosely translates to “Connected Hearts School,” say they will launch on Monday, September 10th. That date hold special significance, as it’s the World Health Organization’s World Suicide Prevention Day.
Much like its U.S. equivalent, the “Connected Hearts School” has a goal of helping and protecting as many sexual minority youths as they can by spreading the message that it’s ok to be who they are, despite the bullying and pressure from society. While homosexuality and gay culture certainly exist and are acknowledged in Japanese society, it is very rarely as openly accepted as it is in the West. In a separate project by an American English teacher, a video titled “Being Gay in Japan” shows the interview of a male Japanese friend about the pressures of the country’s society and dealing with thoughts of suicide.
The government has responded to the increasing cases of severe bullying in Japan’s schools, most significantly a recent case of a 13 year old committing suicide because of his daily tortures, a tragedy that was sadly echoed by a 12 year old just this week. In its annual review of national policy, for the first time the government mentioned the importance of preventing youth suicides and the need to recognize and support the gay community. A member of the Toshima ward assembly in Tokyo, Taiga Ishikawa, responded to the announcement by helping with the creation of the “Connected Hearts School.”
While the “It Gets Better” project has gotten support from big names like pop-star Lady Gaga, and even President Barack Obama, Ishikawa and Sugiyama’s campaign is also getting a hand from several Japanese celebrities. Novelist Ira Ishida has pledged support, as well as Yuki Ota, a two-time Olympic fencing medalist, and Sugiyama adds that they’ve spoken with several music acts to write songs.