Officialsare concerned that a lingering sense of hopelessnessamong quake victims may drive themto take their own lives. Authorities have provided hotlines, therapy andcounseling in hopes of averting more deaths.
Healthcareworkers keep watch for signs that sleeping evacuees might need assistance at a center for those displaced by the earthquake andtsunami, in Ishinomaki, Japan. Naoko Sugimoto has heard the news through the nation's fledgling mental health grapevine, ominous reports of suicides in theregion devastated by last month's magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami.
It's a trickle she fears may soon become a river: thefarmer who hanged himself, distressed about a cabbage harvest ruined by radioactivefallout from the nuclear power plant;the overworked government worker near the complex who took his life;the father who killed himself after a fruitless search for his child after thetsunami.
"I feel sorry for thesepeople in the same way I do for those who died in the tsunami," saidSugimoto, 67, who heads a national suicide support group, Izoku Shien."But they didn't die in the tsunami; they died afterward. They took theirown lives. And that makes you ask yourself, 'What could we have done?'"
As Japan rebuilds from the March 11 disaster,public health officials worry that a lingering sense of hopelessness amongthose affected might lead to a surge in suicides in anation already coping with one of the developed world's highest rates ofself-inflicted deaths. They have created suicide hotlines, pumpedmore money into therapy programs and sent more suicide counselors into thefield as they wait and worry.
In the coming months, as those displaced by the quake andtsunami seek to move on with their lives, the true gravity of the disaster willslowly sink in for many, say government officials, aid organizations and mental health workers.
Some who have lost homes, family andfriends probably will ask: "What do I have to live for?"
Accurate statistics are not available, but the nation experienced a rise in suicides after the 1995 Kobe earthquake thatkilled more than 6,400 people. Those who chose to die included the city's deputy major, who doused himself with kerosene on thefirst anniversary of the disaster, Sugimoto said.
Now she frets about the soldiers and police officers whohave spent weeks on the grim search for bodies, as well as nuclear plantemployees working overtime to deal with the crippled reactor.
"They're all vulnerable to the effects of thedisaster, which will take time to sink in," she said.
Japan's view of taking one's own life does notcarry the connotations of sin or mental illness that it does in the West. For centuries, the country has maintaineda romanticized notion of the noble suicide, fueled by tales of samurai warriorsand World War II kamikaze pilots.
In 2007, after a Japanese Cabinet minister hanged himselfwith a dog leash while under investigation in for a seriesof political scandals, a national politician remarkedthat the minister "was a true samurai" because he had taken his lifeto preserve his honor.
Japan now confronts a suicide toll that soaredafter the 1997 Asian financial crisis and has reached 30,000 a year for 13 consecutive years.
2011-04-28 15:09 编辑：kuaileyingyu