The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Feeling Blue

Last month, in an effort to kerb a rising suicide rates, and at a cost of some 15 million yen, or $165,000, JR (Japan Railways)  installed blue LED lights at all 29 stations on the Yamanote line. Other lines have also begun to install the lights at some of their stations. The Blue LED light is supposed to soothe and calm potential jumpers, though there is little scientific evidence for this. If you ask me the Japanese love using Blue LED lights because they invented them, a fact they are inordinately proud of, despite not actually rewarding the inventor suffciently and forcing him to relocate to the US where he can actually profit from his genius.

But it might work, and with this year`s suicide rate set to surpass the previous high of 34,427 deaths in 2003 doing something, however suspect the rational, is better than doing nothing at all. Over 2,000 people jumped under a train last year in Japan (accounting for around 6% of all suicides) so let`s hope they DO work and let`s hope the new government can give people a sense of hope and purpose in their lives so that choosing to end it by jumping under a train is a step less lightly taken than it sometimes appears to be these days.

More images of the Blue LED anti-suicide lights at JR station available at my archive here.

Damon

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3 responses

  1. Saw a thing on TV about this. Think there is actually no scientific evidence to back up the calming effect of the blue light theory, instead a colour therapist hired by JR suggested blue would make people think of the sky or water and be soothed.

    A friend of mine suggested that mirrors on the far side of the tracks reflecting what a “potential jumper” was about to do would do better to deter someone from carrying out their attempted suicide. Also. a constant announcement over the loudspeaker reminding people that suicide was “annoying” for other people due to trains being delayed and would also impose financial burden on their families (who have to pay damages due to the inconvenience caused) would possibly be a good preventative. Heck, reminders not to leave your umbrella on a train on a rainy day works, as you said, trying something is better than nothing.

    December 5, 2009 at 2:54 pm

  2. Thanks for stopping by Will. I know it is all a bit of nonsense but if there is even the slightest possibility it works it is worth doing. I saw the mirrors opposite the platform (a much better idea in which I can see the psychological impact on the potential jumper easier) in a photo in Time magazine a few years ago. It was a special Asian mental health issue and was just a tiny 1/8 page stock shot but struck me as something I should have in my own stock catalogue (for completeness) Buggered if I can find the station where the mirrors are though! Chou Line, the famous Orange suicide line, I believe but don`t know where.
    Damon

    December 5, 2009 at 5:07 pm

  3. Yeah, completely agree, anything that helps is good. Looks like this year has seen the highest suicide rates ever, so every little helps. On the train now, hope there are no delays today, recently the trains have been a nightmare recently with suicide related delays.

    December 9, 2009 at 11:10 pm

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