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This podcast brings us face to face with one of the most distressing issues of the modern world. Despite unprecedented wealth, security and opportunity, rates of suicide have risen more or less continuously over the last generation. Young people, who have their entire lives before them, have been especially hard hit. Although we usually think of suicide as an individual problem, in this podcast Chikako Ozawa de Silva, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Emory University, shows how intimately suicide is connected with aspects of modern life that generate loneliness. We discuss her recent book, The Anatomy of Loneliness: Suicide, Social Connection and the Search for Relational Meaning in Contemporary Japan (University of California Press, 2021) which chronicles how a growing sense of alienation within Japanese society has resulted in problems ranging from hikikomori, the practice of young people shutting themselves away from the world, to internet group suicide, in which people voluntarily choose to commit suicide as a group so they can die in the company of others to avoid enduring a natural death so completely alone. We talk about how Japan may be a worrying bellwether for other developed nations in which loneliness increasingly means being unseen, unrecognized, unsafe and unloved. And although there are no magic bullets, Dr. Ozawa de Silva’s unique perspective offers hope for ways we can work together as a society to reduce many of the sources of alienation that drive so many people to end their lives.

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