News / Asia

Fears of Suicide Surge in Japan's Tsunami Zone

These people care for their infant, and are among more than 430,000 forced into emergency shelters after the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11 of this year, in Sendai, Japan, August 2011
These people care for their infant, and are among more than 430,000 forced into emergency shelters after the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11 of this year, in Sendai, Japan, August 2011

Multimedia

Henry Ridgwell

Months after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, mental health experts say the psychological effects of the disaster might only now be coming to the surface. Phone counseling services are building up their presence along Japan's northeast coast for fear of increased suicides and other mental health problems.

As excavators continue to clear the wreckage along the Tohoku coastline, the physical impact of the tsunami is still clear to see. But as reconstruction efforts proceed, there is growing concern over the mental scars the tsunami has left behind.

More than 430,000 people were forced into emergency shelters. Homes were destroyed. Communities cut off.

The phone counseling service ‘Inochi no Denwa’ in Sendai, one of the worst hit cities, is beefing up its services to deal with an anticipated rise in the number of calls.

Kazuko Demura, the organization’ chairwoman, said, "Immediately after the quake and tsunami everyone was really scared. On the telephone, everyone said they were frightened, especially people with existing mental health problems. For example, in the shelters they can’t sleep, they have no medication, so their mental health is getting worse and worse."

Fallout from the nuclear plant in Fukushima prompted a Japanese farmer to hang himself.

Local media say a government worker killed himself in April, as did a father who had lost his daughter. There are fears the trickle could become a torrent.

Japan already has the highest suicide rate in the world - at more than 30,000 deaths per year for the last 13 years.

Several months since the tsunami, the mental effects are still great, said Demura.

"People are beyond the sadness,” she said. “They feel guilty about surviving. People gradually calm down, but they often have flashbacks and the tsunami becomes a trauma for them. Then they start to worry about the future."

There are still remarkable examples of the Japanese stoicism that has drawn so much admiration.

Ryuichi Suzuki carefully waters the pot plants outside his new home - a pre-fabricated unit quickly erected on some waste ground in Sendai. His family home on the shoreline was washed away without a trace by the tsunami. Suzuki and his wife spent two months in a school shelter before being given this house.

"There is no point in thinking about the things I lost’” said Suzuki. “I had better forget about it all and think about the future. I guess I will live for another 10 or 15 years, so I want to get over this disaster,” he said. “I’m going to live with positive outlook. I’ll do my best."

Suzuki said he’s happy with his temporary new home. It has a roof and walls, he said, and even a high-tech electric toilet.

"My first hope is that the Japanese government will compensate me well for my losses, for my house,” he said. “My second hope? Let me see…  I hope to get a camper van. When it's cold, I’ll go somewhere warm. When it’s too hot, I’ll go to a cooler place, he said. “Like a sunflower, I’ll follow the sun."

Across this region, advertisements on buildings, buses and taxis implore the Japanese people to ganbarou - or rise up and meet the challenge.

Counselors at 'Inochi no Denwa' say that mentally, many of the survivors still are struggling to deal with the events of March 11, which changed their lives forever.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs