Mental health risks in post-quake Japan

Mental health risks in post-quake Japan

By Liz Lockhart

A Japanese government report on suicide prevention has warned that the mental health burden for survivors is very high.  Most of us watched in horror as the quake, followed b the tsunami hit the island.  Let us also take into account the nuclear disaster that accompanied this three months ago.

Many disaster survivors might experience long-term anxiety the annual white paper on suicide, Tokyo warned.  It is thought that the symptoms may be more moderate than with other clinical conditions which include depression.

Yoshiharu Kim, director of adult mental health at the National Institute of Mental Health wrote that the 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami in northern Japan traumatised many people in the region.  The quake struck on 11th March.

‘People tend to feel a sense of guilt after surviving when those who tried to escape the disasters with them died,’ he wrote in the paper.

‘Adding to the shock of having to see damaged bodies (to identify dead family members), concerns have been raised for chronic depressive conditions and complex grief among survivors’ he said.

More than 23,000 people were left dead or missing after the quake and tsunami which then triggered the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.  Hundreds of thousands of residents were then forced to leave their homes.

The World Health Organisation says that Japan has long had one of the world’s highest suicide rates with more than 30,000 suicides a year in a population of 128 million. 

Yoshiharu Kim wrote that the government should offer mental health screenings to help affected individuals get referred to specialists.

With the amount of services which need to be provided from structural repair to re-housing let us hope that the mental health of sufferers is not pushed to the back of the queue. 

Further help on depression

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