YouTube is no stranger to users doing moronic, insensitive things for attention, from small-timers filming pranks gone wrong to famous channels making racist remarks. Suicide, however, is one step too far.
But this week, popular YouTuber Logan Paul took this dubious trend to new and twisted heights when he released a vlog of his trek through a ‘suicide forest’, a video where he and his companions made light of the corpse of a suicide victim.
Paul copped incredible backlash from social media, officials, celebrities and even fellow YouTubers. Countless social media users have started petitions calling for Logan Paul’s channel to be pulled down and others for him to face charges.
The vlog was filmed in the Aokigahara forest of Fujikawaguchiko, Japan, a place with a long, eerie history of suicide, body-dumping, murder and the gruesome practice of ubasute: leading people into a desolate areas and leaving them to die.
More than 27 bodies were found in the forest in 2002, a number that spiked to 105 the following year in 2003. Statistics from 2010 showed that over two-hundred people went to Aokigahara to kill themselves and fifty-four percent succeeded. Since 1970, the Japanese police have been leading annual searches across the whole forest to gather and identify corpses. They can then return the remains to the deceased’s loved ones.
Things have gotten so bad, people have put up banners and signs encouraging anyone visiting the forest – trek or suicide attempt- to “meditate on (their) parents, siblings and (their) children once more. Do not be troubled alone . . . (life is) something precious that was given to you by your parents.”
The popularity of Aokigahara forest is a testament to the fact that even in a modernized and fast-changing country like Japan, nowhere near enough is being done for those struggling with mental health issues.
Japan ranks eighteenth in the world for highest suicide rates and suicide is the leading cause of death for men between the ages of 20-44 years old. As a conservative and conformist country, mental health is heavily stigmatized in Japan, at an even worse rate than Australia and the United States. According to a study conducted in 2013, most Japanese people believe mental illness to be caused by personality flaws, which makes those who do openly suffer experience exclusion and more.
Suicide is a huge issue for Australia also. In 2015, the suicide rate was at thirteen suicides per 100 000 people, an average of eight suicides per day and for every one suicide, there were more than thirty attempts.
To Logan Paul and any others who make videos that poke fun at this matter, these statistics are not a joke. He may have apologized, stating that he didn’t upload the video for the views, (which only begs the question: why was it uploaded?). Paul and his companions knowingly ventured into the despairing Aokigahara, wandered into a restricted area, found a human body, ridiculed and recorded the whole thing, and then uploaded it to YouTube knowing full well what was on it. And when you look at all the events and actions leading up to this scandal, Logan Paul’s apology is not just half-hearted, it’s a further disrespect.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing depressive symptoms or suicidal thoughts/impulses, we at Chattr encourage you to call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and to remind you that you are never alone in your struggles.