TOKYO - Suicide is rising in Japan as the economic crisis bites, with more than 100 people a day taking their lives in April.

It's the end of the financial year, so I think the effect of the economy is a trigger, said Yasuyuki Shimizu, head of Lifelink, a group that campaigns to prevent suicide. In a recession, the end of the financial year tends to spark bankruptcies and layoffs.

Japan's suicide rate is already one of the highest in the developed world, with about 24 cases per 100,000 population in recent years, compared with 11 in the United States.

The April figure was up 6 percent from the same month last year, police statistics showed on Wednesday.

Japan's economy shrank by a record 4 percent in January-March, the final quarter of the business year.

The problem is that it's seen as a matter of course that people who lose their jobs should be forced into suicide, Lifelink's Shimizu said.

We have to create a safety net that enables the unemployed to stay alive, he added, calling on the police to provide more detailed information on suicides as a first step.

Middle-aged men are most at risk, although cases of younger people taking their own lives are on the rise. More than 30,000 Japanese have committed suicide each year for the past 11 years.

The National Police Agency began publishing monthly suicide statistics last year in an bid to support efforts to tackle the problem.

(Reporting by Isabel Reynolds)