It used to keep its distance. We watch it on TV. We see it in the news. It seems to attack everyone we hardly know. Until now.

Case 1 : I met A* some time back. She is thirty years old. Living with her parents, she goes to a vocational school and doesn’t work. I felt something was weird with her, but I didn’t really give it much thought. People have their weird streaks, so what? Anyway she told me she has a mental illness, but doesn’t know what it is in English. I let it go – everybody has some sort of mental illness nowadays. It’s the labeling! Fast forward, a friend from the US wanted to date a Japanese girl, so I hooked them up on Facebook. Before my American friend was due to leave, I asked for a date with him. He agreed. I asked if I should take A* with me. The answer was a violent, resounding “No!” My friend explained : “Your friend is unhappy! I don’t want to see her!
Eventually, I found a common friend (with A*) who speaks more Japanese than me: it turned out that A* was suffering from schizophrenia and had to be “locked up” for some months, “as ordered by the government”.

Case 2 : B* is close friend who came to Tokyo as an enthusiastic, eager 20-something full of dreams. She worked 15 hours a day, 6 days a week for ten years, with no holidays or Sat-Sun off… before deciding she’s had enough. She’s now a jaded, depressed, disillusioned, broke 30-something. She locked herself up in her room for 6 months before confessing that she had quit her job. Upon our advice, she packed her bags and left Tokyo for good to go home to her parents’ house.

Fact: The greatest public health issue in Japan is depression.

From the Japan Times :

The greatest public health issue facing the people of Japan today is not cancer. It is not vascular diseases than can cause heart attacks and strokes. It is not the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the ever-rising number of the elderly.

It is depression in its many forms and guises.

Depression is the big gorilla on the basketball court, the one that’s stealing the ball but isn’t seen because everyone is willfully looking the other way.

[]

Here in Japan, where a conservative estimate is that 1 in 5 people will experience one or another form of depression in their lifetime, the abiding societal postulate is: Keep it to yourself (KITY). In fact, this principle is applicable to the appearance of many social ills. If you don’t ask and you don’t tell, then it’s as if through such deceptions the problem will somehow slip below the tatami and disappear from sight.

Kenzo Denda, of the Department of Psychiatry at Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, has reported that 1 in 12 elementary school pupils suffers from depression, while at the middle-school level the figure may be as high as 1 in 4. Studies show that at least one-third of the prison population is made up of the clinically depressed.

Pulvers, Roger. Japan Times. Opinion. Depression is a national ailment that demands open recognition in Japan. February 12, 2012. Web. March 3, 2015. < www. japantimes.co. jp/opinion/ 2012/ 02/ 12/ commentary/ depression-is-a-national-ailment-that-demands-open-recognition-in-japan/ >

Fact : 24% of Japanese suffer mental health problems

From the Japan Today :

This director’s experience is far from unique. A study last year by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor found that 24% of Japanese people had suffered from some kind of mental health problem. Another report found that one in five adults had considered killing themselves, with actual suicide rates at 51 per 100,000 people — twice as high as the U.S. and three times that of the UK. The figures have prompted a $222 million government campaign to raise awareness of the issue and to make counseling services more widely available.

Priestley, Ian. Japan Today. Arts and Culture. New documentary explores taboo subject of mental illness in Japan. March 23, 2009. Web. March 3, 2015. < www. japantoday. com/ category/ arts-culture / view / new-documentary -explores -taboo -subject-of-mental-illness-in-japan >

Fact : Japan has more mental institutions than the UK and the US.

From the Japan Times :

Japan has three times as many mental-hospital beds per person as Britain, and seven times as many as the United States. In America, patients stay in mental hospitals, on average, for eight days; in Japan, for more than 400.

The Economist. In the dark ages.November 22, 2001. Web. March 3, 2015. < www. economist. com/ node/ 876845 >

Fact : Depressed women outnumber men.

From Japan Today :

The breakdown by gender is also similar to that in the West: Women with depression outnumber male sufferers by about 3 to 1.

Priestley, Ian. Japan Today. Arts and Culture. New documentary explores taboo subject of mental illness in Japan. March 23, 2009. Web. March 3, 2015. < www. japantoday. com/ category/ arts-culture / view / new-documentary -explores -taboo -subject-of-mental-illness-in-japan >

Fact : Many cases of depression stem from psychological problems and stress

From Japan Times :

 

A joint Japan-Australia survey on mental health conducted in 2003 and 2004 indicated that, in the case of Japan, a great many actual cases of depression were put in the category of “psychological problems and stress.”
[]
There has been an overemphasis in this country on male problems based on the stresses and strains of employment. Japanese women are traditionally told to grin and bear their suffering and not overburden others with their personal problems. Don’t nag. Don’t whinge. Just pull yourself together, sigh a big sigh and get on with your tasks.

Pulvers, Roger. Japan Times. Opinion. Depression is a national ailment that demands open recognition in Japan. February 12, 2012. Web. March 3, 2015. < www. japantimes.co. jp/opinion/ 2012/ 02/ 12/ commentary/ depression-is-a-national-ailment-that-demands-open-recognition-in-japan/  >

Fact: Depression costs society a lot of money.

From Japan Times :

freelance journalist Ryutaro Kaibe points out that every year between 800,000 and 1.2 million Japanese quit or stay away from work because of depression. The annual cost to the nation is an estimated ¥2.7 trillion.

To such costs must be added the human costs of suicides stemming from depression. Conservatively, 30 percent of the annual toll — more than 30,000 dead for 13 consecutive years — is due to depression. Most estimates indicate half, while some go as high as 80 percent to 90 percent.

Pulvers, Roger. Japan Times. Opinion. Depression is a national ailment that demands open recognition in Japan. February 12, 2012. Web. March 3, 2015. < www. japantimes.co. jp/opinion/ 2012/ 02/ 12/ commentary/ depression-is-a-national-ailment-that-demands-open-recognition-in-japan/ >

 

Fact : Depression still not recognized properly in Japan.

From Japan Times :

Recognition is the crux of the problem. While big strides have been made in the treatment of depression in Japan over recent years, thanks in part to effective new drugs, the recognition of depression at the primary-care level is inadequate.

Pulvers, Roger. Japan Times. Opinion. Depression is a national ailment that demands open recognition in Japan. February 12, 2012. Web. March 3, 2015. < www. japantimes.co. jp/opinion/ 2012/ 02/ 12/ commentary/ depression-is-a-national-ailment-that-demands-open-recognition-in-japan/ >

 

If you ask me, I think some cases of mental illness seems  are avoidable.. If only corporations treated their workers like human beings and not like machines. Japan, with a largely ageing society, has to learn the hard way that they cannot go on treating their workers like shit, draining their youth and energy in the name of corporate profits. People are becoming scarce – gone are the days when people would kill to work, and it is very much in the company’s interest to take better care of their people.  Better workers are people who live balanced life – people who work less and enjoy life. It’s a win-win situation : people are happier, more enthusiastic about work and the companies spend less money on the endless cycle of recruitment and training. Plus, people working less means they get the time to spend the money they earned – a healthier economy to boot. Surely, we cannot afford more cases of A*s and B*s, depressed, disillusioned, mentally unstable youth, aged before their time and now unable to function because of what has been done to them ! What do you think?

 

*Featured image from the internet