Thursday, 4 January 2018

News Rant: Depression in Japan and the body in Aokigahara forest showed on youtube

OK so I want to do one of my posts/rants about things that I have read in the news recently, there are a two subjects I am going to touch upon so just in case one of these doesn't interest you I will start each new topic with the first word of the first paragraph in bold and larger/underlined.

One of the things I pride myself on as a person is that I am always willing to look at other cultures and other ideas. I guess that I am simply an inquisitive soul. I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Japan, maybe its the Anime and Manga, or an early exposure to show like Monkey, or a life time of playing the Video Games most of which have Japanese origins, but its a place that for one reason or another has always interested me.

I have written quiet a bit about mental health so I was surprised to learn that up until the late 1990s in Japan, "depression" was a word rarely heard outside psychiatric circles. It was in fact claimed by some that this was simply because people in Japan didn't suffer depression. They had the same sad or lost feelings that we might have but they didn't become depressed instead they found ways to tunnel these feelings into various avenues which would allow them to carry on with life. Basically it was felt that they used there low moods to create works of art or other such things.

Japan has had a very different medical tradition to countries such as mine (the UK) they tend to have looked at depression as primarily a physical issue rather than a combination of physical and psychological. Depression as a diagnosis was rarely used but people suffering from what we would see as classic symptoms of depression would most commonly be told by their doctors that they needed rest.

Originally the makers of the drug Prozac had pretty much given up on the idea of trying to sell it to Japan. This changed when  a Japanese drugs firm came up with a  remarkable marketing campaign. They spread the word about depression referring to it as kokoro no kaze  which translates as ''a cold of the soul''.  The idea was pushed that anyone could suffer from depression but with medication it could be treated. It was after this that the number of people diagnosed with a mood disorder in Japan doubled in just four years, and the market for anti-depressants boomed.

The acceptance of the idea of depression and the use of drugs to combat it wasn't the end of things though celebrities came out and admitted that they had suffered from depression, to a certain degree it became almost fashionable to admit that you had suffered from a bout of depression. Parents of those who had committed suicide after having been overworked started taking there passed loved ones companies to court. What had once been a sort of hushed up and ignored thing was now being talked about. Suicide had previously been seen as straightforward and sometimes noble but now things were far less clear cut.  A suicide prevention law was passed in 2006, pledging to reduce suicide rates and declaring suicide a social rather than just a private problem.

 In some ways Japan has even done things in this area that we have not. Since 2015 Japan has brought in workplace stress checks which is something that we do not have. Workers complete a  questionnaire covering causes and symptoms of stress  which is assessed by doctors and nurses, the results of which lead to medical care for those who need it and not only that but the results are kept confidential from employers. This is mandatory for companies with more than 50 staff, and smaller businesses are also encouraged to do the same. Do I think that this is something we should do over here? In honesty my answer to this question would be yes most definitely, but I do realise that putting something like this into practise could be very complicated and might actually come with its own issues.

OK so something else I want to talk about which is not totally unrelated which was in the news was a story about an American YouTuber with more than 15 million subscribers who posted a video online which showed the body of a suicide victim. There is a forest in Japan (Aokigahara forest) which people basically visit to commit suicide, its been the subject of stories, legends and even a film, and this YouTube vlogger Logan Paul visited it, while there he filmed a video for his channel which actually showed him and his friends finding a dead body he then posted this video online with the title "We found a dead body in the Japanese suicide forest". The video was viewed more than a million times before it was taken down, it showed the dead man's body with his face blurred. The guy has tonnes of young viewers so this stunt has caused absolutely bucket loads of controversy. He claimed that he went there to do a video which was based on the haunted aspects of the place, and that he wanted to raise awareness of suicide in an effort to save lives, he has done the usual all singing all dancing apology but I am here to talk about what I make of the whole situation.

Would I visit Aokigahara forest? Yes I would. I do think that it would be a terrible dark place to visit but I do think that its important to talk about depression and about suicide and that places can be awful but can also need to be talked about but it needs to be talked about in the right way. If I had been filming the forest and had come across a body then the camera would have been turned off straight away, I would have had respect for the poor man who had unfortunately ended his life. I would have also stopped to think about my audience, showing a corpse on your video when you know your product is consumed by miners is just a really shitty thing to do. I hope that this is the last stupid thing that he does and I really hope that he truly understands that he has done wrong and that he has not just apologised as a form of damage limitation to try and keep as much of his reputation and viewing figures as possible but because he actually regrets what he has done, unfortunately I don't think this is the case but I guess time will tell.

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