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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs