Shortly after Japan intensified its fight against the coronavirus last spring, Natsuna Hashimoto began to suffer from panic attacks. Jim in Osaka, where she worked as a personal trainer, shut down, and her friends stayed home on government recommendations.
Fearing to be alone, she called her boyfriend for just a few months and asked him to come. Still, she sometimes couldn’t stop crying. Her depression, diagnosed earlier that year, swirled. “The world I lived in was already small,” she said. “But I felt like it was getting smaller.”
By July, Mr. Hashimoto had no way to escape and attempted suicide. Her boyfriend found her, called an ambulance, and saved her life. She wants to get rid of the stigma associated with talking about Japanese mental health, so she’s now talking publicly about her experience.
Many people in Japan suffer from pandemics, but there is increasing pressure on women. As in many countries, more women are losing their jobs. In Tokyo, the largest city in the country, about one in five women lives alone, and the recommendation to stay at home and not visit their families exacerbates the sense of isolation. Other women suffer from a serious disparity between household chores and childcare while working from home, or suffer from increased domestic violence and sexual assault.
The increase in psychological and physical damage to the pandemic was accompanied by a fearful surge in women’s suicide. In Japan, 6,976 women died last year. This is nearly 15% more than in 2019. This was the first year-on-year increase in more than 10 years.
Each suicide, and attempted suicide, represents an individual tragedy rooted in a constellation for complex reasons. However, the increase in women for the seventh straight month last year is related to government officials and mental health professionals who worked to reduce what was one of the highest suicide rates in the world. (Last year, men committed suicide more than women, but there were fewer men than in 2019. Overall, the increase in suicide was just under 4%.)
This situation has strengthened the challenges for Japan for many years. In a Stoic-focused society, it is still difficult to talk about or seek help with mental health issues.
The pandemic is also based on social cohesion and amplifies cultural stress, which relies on peer pressure to promote compliance with government demands to wear masks and practice good hygiene. I was allowed to. Women, who are often designated as primary caregivers, may be afraid of public humiliation if they do not take these steps for any reason or become infected with the coronavirus.
“Women are responsible for virus prevention,” said Yuki Nishimura, chairman of the Japan Mental Health Services Association. “Women need to protect their family’s health, their cleanliness, and they can be looked down upon if they aren’t doing it right.”
In one widely published report, a woman in her thirties who had recovered from the coronavirus at home committed suicide. Japanese media grabbed her note expressing anguish about her potential to infect others and cause problems, and experts questioned whether shame had driven her into despair.
“Unfortunately, the current trend is to blame the victims,” said Michiko Ueda, an associate professor of political science at Waseda University in Tokyo who studied suicide. In a survey last year, Ueda found that 40% of respondents were worried about social pressures from being infected with the virus.
“Unless you are’one of us’, we basically don’t support you,” Ueda said. “And if you have a mental health problem, you are not one of us.”
Experts are also worried that a series of Japanese movie and television stars that killed them last year may have spurred a series of impersonator suicides. After the award-winning popular actress Yuko Takeuchi died in late September, the number of suicides the following month surged by nearly 90% year-on-year.
Shortly after Takeuchi’s death, 30-year-old Nao began blogging to document his lifelong struggle with depression and eating disorders. She frankly wrote about suicide attempts three years ago.
Such openness about the fight for mental health is still relatively rare in Japan. Nao, whose family name was withheld due to a celebrity suicide request for privacy, was made to wonder how he would react if he hit an emotional lowest point during a pandemic.
“When you’re at home alone, you feel very isolated from society and that feeling really hurts,” she said. “If I were in that situation now, I think the suicide attempt would have happened earlier. I think I was successful.”
During the pandemic, women suffer from unbalanced unemployment. They accounted for the majority of employees in the industries most affected by infection control, such as restaurants, bars and hotels.
About half of the working women are part-time or contract employees, and when the business level off, companies first reduce those employees. In the first nine months of last year, 1.44 million such workers were unemployed, more than half of whom were women.
Nao voluntarily quit her consulting job to seek psychiatric treatment, but remembers being anxious and unable to pay her rent. When she and her fiancé at the time decided to accelerate their wedding plans, her father accused her of being selfish.
“I felt like I had lost everything,” she recalled.
She said those feelings caused depression leading to her attempted suicide. After spending some time in a psychiatric hospital and continuing to take medication, her confidence improved. She found jobs four days a week in the magazine group’s digital operations and is now able to manage her workload.
In the past, Japan’s suicide rate soared during times of economic crisis, including the collapse of the real estate-based bubble in the 1990s and the global recession of 2008.
During those periods, it was men who were most affected by unemployment and committed suicide at a higher rate. Historically, Japanese male suicides are at least 2-1 times higher than female suicides.
In the case of Mr. Hashimoto, fear of financial dependence contributed to her feelings of despair.
She wasn’t emotionally stable enough to return, even when Jim, who worked as a personal trainer, resumed. She then felt guilty about relying on her boyfriend emotionally and financially.
She met Nozomi Takeda, 23, who works in the construction industry at the gym where he was her training client. They had been dating for only three months when she confessed that she was intolerant of depression.
She said she couldn’t afford treatment and suffered from severe anxiety attacks, equating her with others who “felt very cornered.”
When she attempted suicide, all she could think of was to release Takeda from the responsibility of taking care of her. “I wanted to get rid of his burden,” she said.
Even those who are not unemployed can be exposed to extra stress. Before the pandemic, working from home was very rare in Japan. Then women should suddenly not only please their bosses from afar, but also worry about adjusting new health and safety protocols for their children and protecting older parents who are more vulnerable to the virus. I had to.
Expectations for excellence remained unchanged, but contact with friends and other support networks decreased.
Professor Kumiko Nemoto of the Faculty of Sociology, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, said, “If you can’t get together with others or share stress with others, it’s not too surprising.”
Having survived her own suicide attempt, Mr. Hashimoto now wants to help others talk through their emotional problems and learn to connect them to professionals.
Takeda says he is grateful to Mr. Hashimoto for speaking openly about depression. “She’s the type of person who really shares what she needs and what’s wrong,” he said. “So it was very easy for me to support her because she would say what she needed.”
Readers seeking assistance can contact 13 11 14 Lifeline Crisis Support (1300 659 467 Suicide Callback Services) and 1800 55 1800 Kids Helpline (for young people ages 5-25). For more information, please visit the following URL: Beyond Blue.org.au And lifeline.org.au.. Accept multicultural mental health We support people with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.