Doctors doling out meds as mental health issues rise in Japan


Japan has marginalized those considered mentally ill for a long time and has developed a stigma against it.  Previously, mentally ill Japanese prisoners were ordered to be executed.  Today, the Japanese are taught to endure their mental issues privately, rather than to seek help from doctors.

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. In 2007, 33,093 people committed suicide, the second-highest number ever recorded, and it is the leading cause of death among people who are 20-49 years old and accounts for more than 30% of all deaths in Japan.  Primary causes for suicide include despair triggered by tragedy or a personal sense of failure and clinical depression caused by mental or emotional trauma or neurological factors.

Local doctors do not fully understand depression, its diagnosis and its treatment and are more likely to prescribe anxiety medications to relieve patients of their symptoms.  They most commonly prescribe anti-anxiety medications, sleep medications and antidepressants, resulting in a massive spike in the distribution of these drugs.

Although they effectively treat symptoms, addiction to these drugs has become a concern.  Withdrawal from them has been proven to be more difficult than withdrawal from heroin.  Professionals believe that long-term use of antidepressants can be much more harmful than their original condition.

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