In January, a couple in Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, were arrested for allegedly confining their daughter for at least 15 years before she froze to death in December at the age of 33. The couple told police they had kept her in the tiny room where her body was found because she was mentally ill. They insisted they fed their daughter properly, but she weighed only 19 kilograms when her naked body was found in the unheated room.
In an essay posted on the portal site Mag2 News, Tatsuya Hikichi, a journalist who specializes in mental health issues, called media reports of the mental illness “misleading.” All information had come from the police, and none of it elaborated on the nature of her illness and how her condition developed. The only aspect of the woman’s condition reported by the police was that she was “schizophrenic,” and that became the only context the public had with which to form a picture of her. According to Hikichi, media coverage invariably reinforced the negative image most people have of those who suffer from schizophrenia, especially given some accounts that said the woman was also “violent.”