As a disabled person — I have cerebral palsy — I give The Japan Times a lot of credit for highlighting the potential harm to people with mental health issues an overreaction to Sagamihara might cause (“Trying to make sense of Sagamihara” in the Aug. 30 edition). I think it’s fair to say Japan is a bit behind its Western neighbors when it comes to mental health, and that introducing more surveillance of people with mental health problems won’t necessarily help matters.
However, I would only add a caveat and comment. We, and by “we” I mean those people who are not Satoshi Uematsu himself, the police and (hopefully) physicians dealing with him, are not in an appropriate place to judge his mental health, only a psychiatrist or other mental health specialist who has interviewed him can judge that.
It’s all too easy to conclude that just because he has reportedly admitted to killing people, that he must be mentally ill. I would merely point out this: The people who physically attacked me in Britain, calling me a “scrounger” and a “retard” were not mentally ill. They simply didn’t like disabled people and thought disabled people deserved to be attacked, and acted on that belief. They did not have a mental illness that was deserving of our sympathy, they were simply nasty people who perceived disabled people as stealing their money as “benefit scroungers.”
Now, I am a person who likes to think the best of people. Maybe Uematsu really did have a pre-existing condition that was made worse by the alleged marijuana use. In time, I hope we will learn more about Uematsu’s health, but since the prosecutors will likely seek the death penalty, I doubt we will.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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