The incidence of suicide in Japan has increased markedly in recent years, making suicide a major social problem. Between 1997 and 2006, the annual number of suicides increased from 24,000 to 32,000; the most dramatic increase occurred in middle-aged men, the group showing the greatest increase in depression. Recent studies have shown that prevention campaigns are effective in reducing the total ... [Show full abstract] number of suicides in various areas of Japan, such as Akita Prefecture. Such interventions have been targeted at relatively urban populations, and national data from public health and clinical studies are still needed. The Japanese government has established the goal of reducing the annual number of suicides to 22,000 by 2010; toward this end, several programs have been proposed, including the Mental Barrier-Free Declaration, and the Guidelines for the Management of Depression by Health Care Professionals and Public Servants. However, the number of suicides has not declined over the past 10 years. Achieving the national goal during the remaining years will require extensive and consistent campaigns dealing with the issues and problems underlying suicide, as well as simple screening methods for detecting depression. These campaigns must reach those individuals whose high-risk status goes unrecognized. In this review paper, we propose a strategy for the early detection of suicide risk by screening for depression according to self-perceived symptoms. This approach was based on the symposium Approach to the Prevention of Suicide in Clinical and Occupational Medicine held at the 78th Conference of the Japanese Society of Hygiene, 2008.