In a country that enjoys the world's highest life expectancy, more than 80 people kill themselves every day, according to police figures. The vast majority, 71 per cent, are males that can be loosely defined as salarymen. However, the country's plunging economic fortunes are not the sole reason for the alarming statistic. 'Japanese men are not committing suicide just because of company restructuring,' the Reverend Yukio Saito, executive director of Lifeline, Japan's biggest telephone counselling service, said. 'For example, during the war and in the post-war period, Japan was very poor but suicide rates were extremely low. There are other significant factors which play a part in a person's decision to choose death over life.' Last year's suicide figure hit 31,042 - twice the number of the United States. Approximately 71 per cent of these suicide victims were males - the majority, depressed salarymen. Depression is difficult to treat in any society but in Japan there are cultural reasons for sufferers to be wary of admitting that they may be depressed. Mental illness in Japan is commonly defined in terms of mental and spiritual 'weakness'. Schizophrenia translates as someone suffering from a troubled and unworthy soul. The domestic press often describe people who commit violent acts as depressed, immediately linking depression with random violence in the public eye. Displays of emotion are frowned upon, and though the recent World Cup saw people rejoicing in the streets, very few men over 50 - the prime suicide group - are comfortable with any display of public or private emotion. On top of this the act has been glorified in the country's history and samurai who chose to end their lives after failing to complete a vital task are glorified. Today's salaryman likes to speak of his role in society as a 'corporate samurai'. Even those who overcome the cultural acceptance of suicide and seek help have to go through their own local doctor before being allowed to see a specialist. This denies them the initial anonymity so important to the sufferer seeking help. Besides, many general practitioners are unable to either diagnose or treat suicidal depression.