by Ewa Nowogorski
America is full of crazies walking the street. People yelling absurd things, acting out in weird ways. It’s so common it’s been accepted as normal and is even thought of as comical in some cases. No one thinks anything of it because there are simply so many crazy people roaming the streets. Some people talk to them, but most ignore those people. Pretending they don’t exist is the standard.
For people with mental diseases such as depression, it isn’t really talked about. People who are depressed are not looked down upon though, and they are always encouraged to seek help with a professional. For that reason, depression and mental illnesses tend to be identified more readily, and people get relatively good treatment and support in America.
In Japan, there is a dark side to mental disabilites. People who are born with some kind of mental disorder, such as autism, usually are cared for and can live life like any other person. You see such people on the streets from time to time, sometimes with a caregiver and sometimes alone, managing life the way they are. But outsiders are not so ready to accept these people in their social circles, and sometimes such people will have trouble getting along in society.
For people with mental illnesses such as depression, life is even harder. In a society that shuns sharing personal feelings, people who are depressed can go for a long time without being diagnosed. There is a culture of “gaman” (我慢), which means “to put up with” or “to endure”. If you are extremely stressed at school and you tell someone you feel overwhelmed, well, “gaman”. If you are overworked at your job and try to say something about it, you might even be told that you’re being selfish and to stop complaining because everyone has it just as bad. People are simply not taken seriously, and this is part of the reason why suicide rates are so high.
There are some crisis hotlines in Japan that a person can call if they are feeling suicidal or want to hurt themselves or someone, but this is far from good enough. More could definitely be done in Japan, and even America as well, to help people with mental illnesses and disorders.