The deceased suspect in a deadly arson attack on a mental health clinic in Osaka may have wanted to carry out what’s known as “extended suicide,” triggered by a strong extrapunitive tendency, according to an expert.
Tamami Katada, a psychiatrist who has written a book on the topic, said that the arson attack fits the criteria for an extended suicide, in which an individual who wishes to die by suicide commits mass murder.
According to Katada, many people with suicidal thoughts tend to blame themselves. Some people, however, develop a strong extrapunitive reaction in which they blame others for misfortunes in their lives. In such cases, they may commit mass murder out of revenge, Katada said.
Friday marked two weeks since the fire broke out at the clinic in a building in the city’s Kita Ward. The Osaka Prefectural Police believe that the suspect, Morio Tanimoto, a patient of the clinic, plowed through the flames, taking a large number of people with him.
The police said there are no signs that Tanimoto, who died on Thursday at the age of 61, had tried to escape even after he allegedly set fire to the clinic on Dec. 17. He was found lying on the floor near a door at the center of the clinic.
A total of 26 people were found at the back of the clinic, which was separated from the front by the door. Of them, 25 were confirmed dead.
While the Osaka police believe that Tanimoto trapped the people inside, they have not found any evidence pointing to past issues between the suspect and the clinic.
In 2011, Tanimoto was given a prison sentence for attempting to kill his son, then 25. For that case, determined by a court to be a failed murder-suicide, a court said in its ruling that Tanimoto had tried to eliminated any hesitation he had about ending his own life by trying to take his son, who had not been living with him at the time, and others with him, with his loneliness following his divorce becoming too much to bear.
Katada said that she believes Tanimoto faced poverty and isolation after his release from prison.
Tanimoto may have developed a strong tendency to blame others for his problems, including the head of the clinic, with whom he shared a connection as a patient, and other clinic patients as collateral victims, she said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 119 in Japan for immediate assistance. The TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. You can also visit telljp.com. For those in other countries, visit www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html for a detailed list of resources and assistance.
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