Specialist Launches 'Death to Suicide' in Japan

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Even before recent earthquake and tsunami disasters, Japan had the second-highest rate of suicide among industrialized nations.

The romantic notion of ending your life in the sea of trees surrounding Mount Fuji has unfortunately caught on among depressed Japanese children.

Chad Daniel, whose Youth Bytes videos and personal appearances offer youth an alternative to the negative pressures they feel, has launched a Death to Suicide campaign with other people of faith in the island nation.

He is hopeful fewer young people will be drawn to places like Japan's sea of trees. For Daniel, a suicide in his own family brings back painful memories.

"Listen, I lost my dad many years ago to suicide. And the pain I experienced then and still experience today is something that reminds me that life needs to be communicated to a generation," Daniel said.

In Japan, Daniel discovered that many teens who want to end it all head for Mount Fuji and the sea of trees that has grown over its ancient lava flows.

"Teenagers are drawn there for a number of reasons. But the main reason is a book that was written in the 1990s titled, The Complete Manual of Suicide," Daniel explained. "It says that this is not only the best place to commit suicide, but it's so weird they will never find your body there."

As Daniel humorously points out in one of his videos, the Japanese culture has long tolerated people taking their own lives. But there is no humor in suicide.

One vendor who lives close to the sea of trees says the manual of suicide is a curse.

"He was telling me how he's been living here for I think at least three generations," said Miwa, a translator. "When this book started coming along, like all the suicides started happening. And to him, this is his home. And so people started committing suicide with this book."

Several signs discourage people from entering the sea of trees. Still, more than 100 people a year choose to end their lives in the forest.

When Daniel stepped away from the main path, he was shocked to find an undiscovered body hanging from one of the trees.

What drives the Japanese to take their lives? Many are depressed after losing what they thought were lifetime jobs. Others despair of overcoming personal hardships.

And now as the effects of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster sink in, the rate of suicide could increase.

But Daniel is determined to rescue youth from this dark trend in Japan and around the world.

"We have spoken to teenagers all over the world and we have found two main points that they deal with," he explained. "The first is that there is a spiritual aspect to this that most people aren't aware of. That there is a real darkness, that there is a real evil that is preying on the life that God has given each of us."

"The second is there is an issue with community. Each of these young people expressed that they felt alone," he added. "They felt isolated, that no one would understand."

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Stan Jeter

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CBN News Senior Producer Stan Jeter specializes in Christian news and Latin American coverage.  He has lived and worked for many years in South and Central America, most recently developing the Spanish Christian news program, Mundo Cristiano.  Follow Stan on Twitter @StanJeterNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/StanJeterCBN.