Mental illness is extremely common around the world, but many countries haven’t recognized certain illnesses like depression until recently. Depression in Japan was not widely recognized until the late 1990s. It wasn’t until an advertising campaign for anti-depressants was released that called depression “cold of the soul” that the recognition of depression finally boomed. A recent article by BBC News discusses the views of depression around the world, and Japan’s process of accepting depression as a mental illness.
Understanding how the World Views Depression and Mental Illness
Up until the late 1990s, depression in Japan was something rarely heard of outside psychiatric circles. Some claimed this was due to people in Japan simply not suffering from depression. They believe people found ways to accommodate depressive feelings while somehow being able to carry on with daily life.
A more likely reason is Japan’s medical tradition, in which depression has been regarded as primarily physical rather than a combination of physical and psychological. Depression in Japan was hardly diagnosed, and treatments for symptoms of depression in Japan were often to use rest or exercise.
When the boom of anti-depressants hit the rest of the world, Japan wasn’t on the same page. It wasn’t until a marketing campaign commissioned by a Japanese drugs firm helped turn things around. Word was spread about depression in Japan, defining it as a cold of the soul. They stated it could happen to anyone, and medication was the way to treat it.
The number of people diagnosed with a mood disorder in Japan doubled in just four years. The new illness was not just acceptable now—it was even slightly fashionable. After a few years of a general understanding of depression in Japan had taken place, an outcry for change occurred from many individuals who felt depressed from being overworked by their employers.
Many families fought in court to show that depression could be caused by a person’s circumstances, including overwork—stating it was not purely about genetic inheritance. They also argued that Japans idea that suicide was straightforwardly intentional, were inadequate. At this time, mental illness had gone from a hush-hush family matter to the focus of a worker’s movement.
Since then, Japan has brought in workplace stress checks, a questionnaire covering causes and symptoms of stress which is later assessed by doctors and nurses, and medical care for those who need it. These measures are mandatory for any company with more than 50 staff, and smaller businesses are encouraged to do the same.
Solstice East can help
Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with teen depression, anxiety, trauma, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.
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