Regarding the Feb. 15 article “Masako book author spurns call to apologize“: I agree with Australian author Ben Hills that the protest he received from the Japanese government over his depiction of the Imperial family in his biography of Crown Princess Masako is offensive, but perhaps for different reasons.

First, the protest gives undue attention to a bland book providing little insight. Second, it makes it virtually impossible for the princess to “come out” about her depression. The stigma of mental illness is everywhere, but more so in Japan where psychiatric care is still stuck in the Jurassic Period. Depression is not talked about, and new drug therapies taken for granted in Western countries are often not available. Of course, psychosocial support services are virtually nonexistent.

Had the princess had a chance to come out, it could’ve helped Japanese society face up to the fact that at least one in five people suffer from a mental illness. The effect would have been similar to that of the highly publicized death from cancer of politician Shintaro Abe (father of the current Japanese prime minister) in 1991. Until his death, cancer was rarely ever talked about, let alone made public as a cause of death.

masako fukui

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