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Haunted by trauma, tsunami survivors turn to exorcists

24 Comments
By Ruairidh Villar and Sophie Knight

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24 Comments
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One can hardly blame them....

3 ( +7 / -4 )

What a racket. Good luck with that.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

IT is like a horror movie.. these people should have chance to get out of area and resettle somewhere else in the country. What is the government doing with the displaced people from the radiation zone. We all know what was done at Hiroshima to ignore and turn back on hibakusha. Is the same thing happening by society feeling sorry for these people.. but not wanting to confront the reality of the situation? There are many towns that need people with the young migrating to the cities.. someone must have a plan.. some options for these people to get out of what is a living hell.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Cults are thriving here in Iwate. We've got them all from Aleph to Tenrikyo, Mormons, and Kenshokai. People's lives today are so empty, they are all to willing to fill them with anything. I suppose the tragedy of the disaster is so overwhelming that many victims feel the lies of bizarre shinshukyo and Christian fringe sects are less painful than dealing with reality. And these groups are expert at exploiting the vulnerable and easily manipulated.

8 ( +9 / -2 )

“We think phenomena like ghost sightings are perhaps a mental projection of the terror and worries associated with those places.”

Or, maybe there is nothing mentally wrong with them at all and maybe they actually ARE seeing ghosts?

4 ( +15 / -11 )

This is very serious! It sounds like a joke but it shouldn't be treated as such. PTSD will definitely be a part of their routine for a long time to come. For those who suffered the traumatic experience of loosing so much as well as for those unaffected by the catastrophe.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

These "exorcists" are taking advantage of the vulnerable. I wonder how many are volunteering to do it for free.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Trauma gives rise to all sorts of delusions. Must be awful still living in that wasteland with no real efforts being made by government amost a year later.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@Shinhiyata:

I suppose the tragedy of the disaster is so overwhelming that many victims feel the lies of bizarre shinshukyo and Christian fringe sects are less painful than dealing with reality. And these groups are expert at exploiting the vulnerable and easily manipulated.

I was working with a christian group delivering much needed aid for a while, and for a while I would have taken umbrage at your comments. But you know what - as time went on I started to realise more and more that you are right. I have watched their activities down here and up there and I am increasingly uncomfortable with the way they are treating people. I wont have anything to do with them anymore. I joined to try and help people, not brainwash them. How dare they tell me, as far as possible (with odd mistakes!) a nice, decent person who tries to help where I can and respect everyone around me, that I am going to hell and they fear for my soul because I dont believe the same thing as them. Who says they are right? And lets just say without going into details that recently I have witnessed some extremely un-christian-like behaviour.

You are right. They exploit the vulnerable. Luckily for me I am not.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Snake oil merchants. They can smell cash in the air like a shark smelling blood in the water. These witch doctors should be arrested for racketeering.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

And this is the number one reason behind my dislike of religion and so called "spirituality" it basically exploits people and often deprives them of the assistance they really need.

I think skepticism and critical thinking should be a compulsory class for everyone.

These people require real assistance both mentally and financially, not wishy washy BS that preys on their tragic situation.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Hara said post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might only now be emerging in many people, and the country could be facing a wave of stress-related problems. “It will take time for PTSD to emerge for many people in temporary housing for whom nothing has changed since the quake,” he said.

... and this is a constant source of exasperation. Hara (apparently a psychiatrist) should know better. These people have ALWAYS had PTSD, however the stress from a life-change (moving from temporary housing) has retraumatised the people, causing a relapse. A condition like PTSD, unless treated, normally remains in about 10~15% of people (although I would suggest a higher rate in Japan), and they're extremely vulnerable to retraumatisation.

... so the problem here isn't that they spontaneously developed PTSD, but rather that it was always there, was undiagnosed, and that the shift from temporary housing (or some other stressor) reawakened the condition. A simple analogy is that most people's stress tolerance is like a large road, which we walk along quite comfortably. It takes a lot of shoving from life to knock us off the road. We can do a lot of things to narrow that road and make it easier for even a relatively small knock to push us off the road, for example not sleeping, eating or exercising well. Those who suffer major trauma tend to be like people walking a high-wire, even a tiny thing, that most of us wouldn't even register as a stressor, can knock them down.

EkkusaitoMar. 06, 2013 - 08:31AM JST These "exorcists" are taking advantage of the vulnerable. I wonder how many are volunteering to do it for free.

I would have serious problems with it even if they were doing it for free. Firstly, it feeds delusional behaviour, reinforcing negative coping patterns... or in simpler words, if seeing ghosts gets them attention then people will tend to do it more, and pretty soon you'll have full-blown psychosis. Secondly, it delays them getting real treatment from a professional (and despite my reservations about some psychiatrists in Japan it doesn't take a genius or a proper understanding of human psychology to hand out some pills...).

Finally, there's no such thing as "free". I've seen this way too often, a church or temple group does you a favour, like joining a support group there, and pretty soon you're being pressured into coming to services, dropping money in the collection plate and giving up your time and energy for them.

I do think that religious groups could be useful in the disaster areas, for example by forming support groups, hosting group counselling sessions, and rebuilding communities. However, there need to be strict ethical guidelines and there needs to be 3rd party oversight to prevent some of these religious groups from cashing in. Religious leaders have a long and well-documented history of being completely unethical.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

or could have something to do with all the psycho drugs the Doctors are dishing out like candy creating illusions. I believe this is a huge problem here in Japan, not just the US.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

This is so sad... these people have been through the kind of experience few of us can even imagine - seen their friends and loved ones, entire towns washed away in moments. No wonder they are traumatised... and with a belief in the afterlife and spirits it's only natural that they would start to see things. Who knows how we would react.

I don't believe in ghosts and the like, so I am resentful of these 'exorcists' preying on vulnerable and traumatised people... however, if it gives the people some comfort who are we to complain?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

methinks that 30% national mental disorder is gonna rise...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Wonder what these so-called exorcists charge for their services? Shameful how these cons take advantage of vulnerable people in a situation like this.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Woe, to the person who builds their kindom off of the poor in heart and spirit. Who take from those already devastated. Woe, and destruction to those who prey on the weak.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am not sure of the definition of "exorcism" used in this article (whether it refers only to the one provider mentioned for instance) but taking a broad interpretation, "exorcism" might be used as a translation for "oharai" (lit "sweeping") the most common Shinto ritual of purification to remove psychological or spiritual impurity. It likewise costs money - though not a lot - and has thought to have been effective for millennia.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think the most important thing is to believe in something to get over PTSD. Rather than taking some anti-depressants prescribed by some psychiatrists which only make things worse in the end, it is probably better doing that 'exorcism'. These people need psychological help most of all to help them moving on. Only problem is there are hardly any psychologists in this country. Maybe something should be done about that, bring them in from abroad if you have to!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Turning to an exorcist is considered acceptable, while getting psychiatric treatment is ostracized here - go figure. Why aren't counselors being dispatched by the gov't to help with their, greatly understandable, stress that I imagine many are suffering from.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Excerist,s All should be inturned and sent to work cleaning up the area around the disabled neuclear reacter . For praying on victems of stress and proferting from a non science, non medical snake cure ,that does not work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The "exorcist" that is mentioned in this article seems more interested in connecting people with some part of the spirit world than separating them. Read the holy Bible. Then live it. That seems to work best.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I hope the people find peace and are not charged in anyway for it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

To each his own if it gives them some relief! But immediate reaction was I wondered how much he costs? Anyone know?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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