The Cabinet Office has enlisted mega-popular all-girl idol group AKB48 to help raise awareness of the government’s suicide prevention campaign.
Members of the group appear on a new poster to be distributed nationwide from March. It replaces an earlier poster that was harshly criticized for using a catchphrase that evoked images of AKB48.
The original slogan on the first poster read “Anata mo GKB47 sengen!” (“Declare yourself part of GKB47!”). The acronym GK is short for “gatekeeper,” which in Japan is used to refer to a person who recognizes symptoms of depression in someone else and recommends that they seek treatment, while the B stands for “basic,” which is reportedly an attempt to imply that suicide prevention is everybody’s duty and requires no specialist training. The 47 referred to the number of prefectures in Japan.
Following criticism of that poster by mental health professionals, as well as members of both the DPJ and opposition parties for the way in which it handled the issue of suicide by leveraging the AKB48 brand, the new poster was created for March which has been designated as suicide prevention month. The new poster says “Declare yourself a gatekeeper.”
In 2011, the number of people who committed suicide in Japan was 30,513, surpassing 30,000 for the 14th straight year, according to the health ministry.