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SDF said to be rife with bullying, mental illness and suicide

25 Comments

Many objections have been raised against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to expand the Self-Defense Forces’ role in the world. Does “collective self-defense,” as envisioned by Abe, violate the pacifist principles embodied in the Constitution? Three legal scholars testified before the Diet early this month that in their judgment it did. That one of the three scholars had been selected to testify by Abe’s own Liberal-Democratic Party added weight to public unease: Where is the nation going under this government, and what will it do when it gets there?

Constitutionality and unconstitutionality have so far dominated parliamentary debate on the government’s proposed legal amendments to facilitate SDF operations overseas. Shukan Gendai (June 27) looks at the issue from another angle. Is the SDF, it asks, fit for operations overseas? Its blunt conclusion: By no means.

The SDF, it charges, harbors a “deep, dark secret.” Former enlistees and unnamed Defense Ministry insiders claim the forces are rife with bullying, power harassment, mental illness and suicide. If there is such a thing as a collective nervous breakdown, the SDF, as Shukan Gendai sees it, seems on the brink of one.

SDF suicide statistics, compiled by the government’s Cabinet Office, are shocking. At 37.0 per 100,000 enlistees, the rate is 1.85 times higher than that among the nationwide civilian population. Among troops sent to Iraq in support operations between 2003 and 2009, the suicide rate surges to 311.5 per 100,000 – more than 15 times the civilian rate.

That military life, even in peacetime, is more stressful than civilian life is not news. Training is harsh, discipline rigorous. Where the fine line lies between discipline and “power harassment” is not clear. A former Maritime SDF member, speaking to Shukan Gendai on condition of anonymity, tells of witnessing beatings with blunt instruments such as metal flashlights that continued until blood flowed. He doesn’t say what offenses the beatings were for.

Is that bullying, or discipline?

Former Air SDF officer Yorimasa Ikeda talks to the magazine of his personal experience. Sent to Iraq in April 2006 as part of Japan’s contribution to the reconstruction of the war-shattered country, he was warned on arrival at the SDF base to beware of land mines, but it was a hazard he was not warned about that overturned his life – he was hit by an American troop transport bus.

All the medics could do for him, supplies being short, was dope him with sleeping pills and painkillers. He pleaded to be sent home; permission denied. When he complained of intolerable pain in his neck, back and jaw he was told, “Go complain to the Americans!”

He was repatriated finally in August – only to be told at a Japanese hospital that too much time had passed since the injuries; they were now incurable.

Depressed, in pain, unable to eat or speak properly, he separated from his wife and child. Bullied by fellow servicemen, he resigned his commission. He says now, “The SDF is riddled with cover-ups and lies. They’re utterly untrustworthy.”

Maybe he’s simply a man with a grievance sounding off; or maybe not. Many service people, Shukan Gendai points out, enlist mainly to acquire experience and qualifications they can take back with them to civilian life – the sooner the better. Their motivation is low. “And how will these people perform,” the magazine wonders, “if they’re sent to an overseas war zone?”

One SDF member is quoted, anonymously, as saying, “I enlisted to protect Japan in case of attack – not to be sent abroad for something called ‘collective self-defense.’ That is altogether different from what I was told I’d be doing when I signed up.”

© Japan Today

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

25 Comments
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Is this surprising? The whole sempai, kohai (or any superior/subordinate relationship) nonsense is instilled from an early age and it's carried on until death. Yes, death at the hands of a sempai who was "trying to instill discipline." And Japanese will say that this is their cultural heritage and poo poo it and it will get swept away as if nothing happened. If Abe sends them to a hot zone, watch and see how many crack and see if the number of fragging incidents go up.

20 ( +21 / -1 )

I served 4.5 years in the USAF... never once did I see any bullying.

-2 ( +9 / -9 )

Same as Japan as a whole then.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

Same as Japan as a whole then.

I've seen major Western companies in Japan succumb to the worst elements of local work culture

One SDF member is quoted, anonymously, as saying, “I enlisted to protect Japan in case of attack – not to be sent abroad for something called ‘collective self-defense.’ That is altogether different from what I was told I’d be doing when I signed up.”

Is he trying to say that they wouldn't have had all these internal problems if the SDF were a proper military?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

it was a hazard he was not warned about that overturned his life – he was hit by an American troop transport bus.

I am fairly sure most adults know that motor vehicles are dangerous. Either he didn't use common sense or the U.S. bus was negligent, then I am not sure what he expected to be warned about from the SDF that isn't taught to kindergarteners.

4 ( +7 / -2 )

I would like to know how this compares to any other military though. I know the rates of mental illness and suicide are high elsewhere, especially among veterans who didn't even see combat, and bullying is a perennial problem in other militaries too. The Australian military produces regular stories of bullying and various kinds of harassment, especially at training facilities. There is maybe something about the general military environment that needs to be used as the baseline before looking at the Japanese example. I don't doubt that cruelty and bullying are features of the SDF though as these seem to be widely prevalent within all Japanese institutions. Fear is always used as the prime motivator.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is a sad state of affairs, and the SDF isn't even entangled in any conflicts or wars... yet.

If the SDF became active in a conflict, these problems would surely be exacerbated 100-fold — think Syria, Iran, Iraq, or even a dispute emerging in the Asia region.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I suspect that just like in Japanese society, the bullying in the SDF is probably subtle but more psychologically damaging. For example, If you look at the video below at 11:20, the senior SDF cadet says to the junior, 'I don't sense your motivation' and 'you are always making mistakes'. In other militaries, a drill sergeant might aggressively yell '*Faster you lazy piece of s**!' directly in your face if you're doing something slowly, but not just calmly muse about your motivation and toss out very ambiguous insults about your general competence.

https://youtu.be/hcQTysyGwKQ

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Is that bullying, or discipline?

... what sort of idiot has to ask this question? It isn't either, it is common assault and whoever did it deserves to be arrested. The military is NOT a magical zone where the normal laws do not apply.

All the medics could do for him, supplies being short

So they're abusive AND incompetent? ... seems about right.

Maybe he’s simply a man with a grievance sounding off

And this is the tin lid on the kettle. Is this reporter too lazy to request some proof, like medical records? We deserve better reporting than this.

4 ( +6 / -1 )

Wait, what? I thought saying "gangatte" was supposed to be the cure for all emotional ills?

-2 ( +2 / -3 )

bulling has long been apart of human nature. The problem is how people handle bulling. The majority of humans overcome it or work out a way to not let it effect them. Some people who allow bulling to effect them will commit suicide. Like bulling is ever going to go away so people should learn strategies to overcome bulling. My strategy is to show them that I am not worry one bit and for them the bully to get a real life.

-6 ( +0 / -5 )

The SDF is weak. Security a joke and having met a few Japanese Generals in my time, they are radical and hunger war. By security weakness - I went north once to a location where the Patriot missile launchers are kept. No ID check at the gate and I was free to walk about the gaff with a camera, mobile phone and a computer in my bag. I am from UK and not Asian so not exactly inconspicuous but nobody stopped me once in two hours in the base.

0 ( +2 / -1 )

JAPAN said to be rife with bullying, mental illness and suicide

There title fixed!

Obviously very few on jt are surprised about this!

And if ever in war any bets the SDF quickly return the old ways of the IJA!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

My brother was in the US military and cousin in the JSD. Both are full of bullying but under the disguise of discipline.

1 ( +3 / -3 )

Is the mental illness present before they join up or is it a consequence of life in the SDF?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

No different from the US military other than the US military has illegal drug usage at high rates as well. Lets face it, In most cases if someone joins any volunteer military they are a little dippy or desperate to start. Or both.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I served 4.5 years in the USAF... never once did I see any bullying.

And wtf does that have to do with the Japanese Self Defense Forces?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Defense Ministry insiders claim the forces are rife with bullying, power harassment, mental illness and suicide

Well sure this is what they call here Japanese society of harmony. Usual stuff.

The SDF is riddled with cover-ups and lies. They’re utterly untrustworthy.”

Ok so here, we've got the Japan Inc style.

Say whatever you want about Japan, at least they are consistent with all the sh... they do.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Yubaru.... hmmmm. When someone is murdered in Japan on many websites we read.... well other countries are much worse and that Japan is still quite safe. Well I figured I'd highlight that another country is better. I guess that might bother you.

I served in the MC and I saw it every day. But that means crap in this discussion because evidently you do not understand the culture behind all this. You highlighted nothing, just made a passing comment about your own experience.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

True... didn't serve in the MC... but that's a reflection on where you put yourself isn't it. LOL.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

True... didn't serve in the MC... but that's a reflection on where you put yourself isn't it. LOL.

Still has nothing to do with the topic at hand, and like I said different country, different morals, different culture. You CAN NOT measure the JSDF by using a US Military yardstick.

There is ZERO comparison, hence your really being off topic here.

Bullying is a part of Japanese society and it is a bigger problem it seems within the SDF, and that should be ringing bells with the government and their plans to upgrade the SDF to a full military and send it on overseas missions.

It is not a smart move by any means to have potentially unstable people representing the country.

Oh and just because you did not see it in the USAF it happens, maybe you were too blind to recognize it, a simple web search will prove my point.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

They're bored, when humans have no common enemy, they turn to hurt each other. My suggestion is to give them a common enemy, send them to war, let them experience what they sign up for in the first place.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@zurconium

Lets face it, In most cases if someone joins any volunteer military they are a little dippy or desperate to start.

And you base this on what? Academic studies? Show me the data. Anecdotal evidence from your own obviously-wide-ranging experience with military members across the world? Or maybe you're just bigoted and ignorant? Here's some actual facts that should help to eliminate your bias:

"The current findings show that the demographic characteristics of volunteers have continued to show signs of higher, not lower, quality." http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/10/who-are-the-recruits-the-demographic-characteristics-of-us-military-enlistment-2003-2005

"So 50 percent of the enlisted recruits (i.e., not including the officers’ corps) come from families in the top 40 percent of the income distribution, while only 10 percent come from the bottom 20 percent." "when discussing the U.S. military in the aggregate, the common notion that the military is a stop of last resort, increasingly staffed by low-income desperadoes with slim future prospects, cannot be right." http://freakonomics.com/2008/09/22/who-serves-in-the-military-today/

0 ( +1 / -1 )

According to a Harvard Medical School professor, "The rate of major depression is five times as high among soldiers as civilians, intermittent explosive disorder six times as high, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) nearly 15 times as high."

The military is struggling with an epidemic of suicides and a surge in mental health disability claims following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A tragic new trend is also developing: mass shootings by servicemembers on military facilities, including two separate incidents at Fort Hood that left 16 people dead and an incident at the Washington Navy Yard that killed 12 people.

These are recent facts, not slanted disinformation from the Heritage foundation from 2008 you think is still valid. Volunteer militaries scrape the bottom of the barrel of society, that is true in the USA and here in japan as well. Face it, if you had something else better you would never join the military in most cases. But for people who have nothing else, it is an option.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The suicide rate they mention for the military, 37/100,000, is higher than the US rate (30/100,000). Given that Japanese soldiers are not normally exposed to combat (and for those that were sent to Iraq in a non-combat role, the rate jumps to 300/100,000), this cries out for investigation and action.

Sadly, neither is likely to happen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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