Hikikomori

I’ve been made to feel very grateful today for the care and support I receive from family, friends and the NHS regarding my depression. I have a wife who loves me, supports me, and helps me manage my depression. I have friends who read my rantings, talk to me, and support me. My doctor takes the time to discuss my condition, prescribes me sensible amounts of medication and assesses the levels of my anti-depressants on a regular basis.

I am lucky.

I can ask for help and receive it. There are systems in place for me to talk to a counselor if I need to, I have access to the medication I need to control my depression and anxiety. I live in a civilized society where help is easy to come by and I am not judged for needing it.

I realised just how lucky I am by reading an article online regarding the young men of Japan who are suffering as a result of the economic depression. Unlike their parents who would’ve found jobs and remained in them, today’s young men are unable to find stable long term work and have found themselves at odds with the older generation. This has led to a feeling of detachment known as Hikikomori – a sense of withdrawal – where young men become so depressed with their situation and inability to reconcile their parents desires with their own. These men take to hiding away in their rooms, unable to talk to friends and sometimes family, filled with fear, sadness and anger.

I’ve been in that situation, I know how they feel. I’ve locked myself away, filled with fear, unable to talk to people, but I got the help I needed to get out of my room, get dressed and live life again. Some of the treatment these young men receive to “cure” them is Victorian at best. A lack of understanding from the parents of the Hikikomori usually leads to confrontation, anger, communication breakdown, and verbal abuse. Some parents take more extreme measures and seek help from agencies who abduct the young men and attempt to shame them into becoming what they were expected to.

The majority of mental health issues in Japan are going untreated. It’s estimated that up to two thirds of psychiatric disorders are untreated and that only a quarter receive any medical help at all. The crux of this issue is that Japan has a suicide rate of 30,000 people a year, with up to 90% due to depression and other mental health issues.

Until the stigmatization of those with mental illness ends, and the keep it to yourself society changes, these young men will remain at risk. They will keep getting depressed, they will keep withdrawing from society, and they will keep dying by their own hand.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we have it available in this country. Mental illness is not the stigma it once was. Celebrities are open about theirs, politicians have opened up about theirs, and if you need to then you can too. Remember how lucky you are to be depressed in the UK and seek help if you need it.

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