Thank you so much for the Oct. 8 editorial “Depression and suicide.” I could not agree more on the need for more awareness and education regarding mental illness. I have suffered from depression for 10 years. I moved back to Japan last year from the Middle East and have had difficulty since there are no English-speaking psychiatrists where I live, no English-speaking mood disorder support groups, etc.
I am also a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for which there is not much support. There is one small chapter here, but my Japanese is not good enough to get a lot out of the meetings. Last January I attended a two-day conference organized by a friend in Kochi Prefecture. Many people found it helpful.
I have faced discrimination in the workplace both in Canada and abroad. I work as an EFL instructor and taught in the Middle East for five years. From my experience working there, in South Korea and Japan, people don’t want to talk about mental illness. The way they often deal with it is to drink — which I did — even in the Muslim countries.
Now there is more public recognition in Canada that depression is an illness like cancer or diabetes, but it is still difficult to find supportive and progressive employers willing to accommodate the medical needs of employees.
My wife is Japanese and cannot really understand the value of talk therapy or why people take antidepressants, but she does support my involvement with AA 100 percent since she sees the positive things it does for people. I don’t know personally any Japanese who have a mood disorder. My foreign friends tell me that Japanese employees such as teachers who suffer from depression are often given extended periods of leave or assigned job tasks that are not demanding.
Anyway, I hope The Japan Times will run more articles about these issues in the near future. I have provided a link to a feature about mental illness that appeared in a Canadian newspaper and another link about a campaign to put a human face on mental illness to reduce the stigma and discrimination: