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Depressing suicide prevention posters cause controversy in Kobe

54 Comments
By Oona McGee

As part of efforts by Kobe City to prevent suicides, a number of huge posters (each measuring 2.1 by 1.35 meters), have been set up on local subway platforms at Sannomiya Station in Kobe’s Central Ward. While some have commended the effort, it seems that the crowds of commuters aren’t all on board with the somewhat depressing content, as the move has been generating a lot of criticism from the public.

With barely any illustrations or images to speak of, the black-and-white posters contain messages from people burdened with stress and problems. After the posters first appeared in March, the number of phone calls to the city office surged, with 1.4 times the monthly average calls received. However, rather than being unanimous messages of support, there were many calls of complaint from members of the public who said the posters were depressing to look at.

As an initiative to support Japan’s national suicide prevention month, these posters were attached to 21 pillars inside the station. The posters feature straight-talking quotes from five fictional men and women aged in their 20s and 60s. The quotes are blunt remarks about stresses related to work, child-rearing and caring for sick relatives. The quotes include common inflections used in the local area’s familiar Kansai dialect to make the messages sound more colloquial and increase their effectiveness.

One of the quotes, for example, is from a 35-year-old department head at a company, who says, “Since my promotion, my workload’s suddenly increased and I get home late so my wife and I always argue.”

A 21-year-old unsuccessful job-hunting student says, “Again, my interview sank like a ship. It’s hopeless; I should give up. It’s so bad I can’t sleep.”

Meanwhile, a 57-year-old housewife who is caring for her ailing mother is quoted as saying, “I practically never sleep. And I’m so exhausted having to move her around all the time.”

According to the city office, in the one-month period after they set up the posters, the number of phone calls received rose to 267, compared to their usual average of 195. While there were some favourable comments, net users have been particularly scathing, writing things like, “Every time I see those posters I feel so unpleasant,” and “Every day I’m forced to see these things; I feel like destroying them”.

A housewife from Nishinomiya City who uses the subway said, “I was startled when I first saw the posters, but you can really empathise with the comments and I ended up staring at them.” A 35-year-old male company employee from Kobe’s Hyogo Ward said, “Seeing these troubles, similar to my own, made me feel a bit down.”

Some comments from Twitter users in response to the posters:

  • “All I can see are posters of complaints.”

  • “Rather than preventing suicides, these posters are promoting them.”

  • “It’s foolish to put them up near the platforms. It’s easy to jump from there after reading them.”

  • “It would be more effective if they had some type of posters showing the sad families that are left behind.”

  • “By just spreading the thoughts of people prone to suicide, are you really going to prevent it?”

  • “Of course, I can tell there are going to be complaints about this.”

  • “These are so depressing. I’m totally against them.”

  • “These posters are a little hard to understand. Wouldn’t it be better to just have posters with “Don’t commit suicide!” in big writing?”

  • “These are good. This is reality.”

  • “If you see these when you’re coming home tired after a day’s work, you’ll probably want to kill yourself.”

Source: Itai News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japanese LGBT Poster Might Be Slightly Biased -- Osaka Politician Busts Man Peeing Against His Campaign Poster -- Commuters, Mothers and Government Bump Heads Over Baby Buggy Posters

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54 Comments
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BUT no protests to remove these huge posters :(

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

They're just a reflection of what each of those who are complaining about them are feeling. Toughen up.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Used this as lesson material last week after reading it on another site.Mixed reviews from students to its value

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I would be interested to hear the rationale behind this particular suicide prevention strategy. It seems counter-intuitive to me.

Can posting thoughts that sometimes spark suicide attempts actually help prevent this sort of behavior? Puzzling.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Suicide is related to mental illness, if undiagnosed it will never be prevented. And a lot don't know that they have this illness as well. Visiting a therapist should be more encouraged rather than kept hidden and ashamed. It should start to be a good positive trend for young and old. Ad with a big open mind.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'd rather see a simple symptom list and an anonymous hotline number like lifeline where people could get advice on where to find treatment.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Pathetic. Not "cute" enough? No little character to make everyone feel better? Japan, grow up. If a poster like this "Rather than preventing suicides, these posters are promoting them" this country has more problems than I thought.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

My advice to the Japanese - Stop promoting suicides through tv programs. I dare you!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Where people that are ready to listen are needed, posters will not do.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Seems a daring experiment. Counter-intuitive to be sure. I wonder if they'll leave them up long enough to get statistically significant data, re: impact on the numbers of suicides and suicide attempts within the city during the same season.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the number of phone calls to the city office surged, with 1.4 times the monthly average calls received.

That's a 'surge'?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I wonder how many complaints were filed for those AKB48 suicide prevention posters they made up awhile back. To me those are more offensive, although I agree that the train platform is not the best location for these...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I guess their logic is to make people think about how everybody (in Japan) has suicidal thoughts, but I fail to see how it will prevent suicide. It is more likely to create suicides. Fuzzy logic!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Actually the message should be that we all suffer from stress, take a step back and relax, in 50 years time, the stress we feel now would be so minute we'd not even remember it, so live happy!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@佐藤2013

Please never give up on life. There is always something good if you look for it.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I think the reason of these posters is to show you you're not alone, that these moments of distress are normal and you can ask for help if you want, without feel ashamed for it. Maybe people who see the posters and feel uneasy can see their feelings trought them, but they are reluctant to admit it. I consider they should let them there, just put some explanation about it and show the phone number for some information.

4 ( +6 / -3 )

This is WHY many of us decide to call it quits either by shutting ourselves away, like myself, or simply calling it quits altogether. We need a serious overhaul of our culture as to reduce the stress of everyday life. We must remember that we are human beings and not cyborgs. It is unfortunate that our system has become less human and autotronic in nature.

What a load of self-pitying rubbish! Every society in the world has its own issues and everybody feels stress. To me, suicide is nothing but a selfish act to gain attention, especially for these people who jump in front of trains. Just man up and face your life! Stop running away from reality and feeling sorry for yourself! It's pretty bloody simple really!

-6 ( +8 / -13 )

What a load of self-pitying rubbish! Every society in the world has its own issues and everybody feels stress. To me, suicide is nothing but a selfish act to gain attention, especially for these people who jump in front of trains. Just man up and face your life! Stop running away from reality and feeling sorry for yourself! It's pretty bloody simple really!

Selfish indeed.

1 ( +4 / -2 )

so tragic..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In other countries there are sportsmen and celebrities who talk about their battle with depression etc. They bring it to the forefront and try and remove the stigma. This hasn't really happened in Japan before.

If this gets more people talking about it and accepting it, it's a good thing that could help save lives.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

@Disillusioned

Don't know how much experience you've had with clinical depression. I've had a lot, very close in the family, and I can tell you or anybody that there are people out there who are suffering at a level you don't seem to understand.

It's not a question of "manning up" and getting on with things, it's a question of restoring chemical balance in a diseased brain. If the medication works, great; if it doesn't then suicide is a very common end result.

You wouldn't tell someone with a shattered leg to get up and run, why expect someone with a shattered mind to do the equivalent?

14 ( +15 / -3 )

@lucabrasi

Exactly...I'm all right so everyone else should be. Disillusioned stance is very selfish and the suggestion that people commit suicide in order to gain attention is ludicrous.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I suspect a lot of the discomfort people feel in seeing these posters lies in their unwillingness to accept that Japan's high suicide rate is in any way their problem. Being faced with it so starkly and matter-of-factly forces them to think about an issue they hope and assume someone else will address.

"It's not my problem." is at the heart of their unhappiness with the campaign.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I suspect a lot of the discomfort people feel in seeing these posters lies in their unwillingness to accept that Japan's high suicide rate is in any way their problem. Being faced with it so starkly and matter-of-factly forces them to think about an issue they hope and assume someone else will address.

"It's not my problem." is at the heart of their unhappiness with the campaign.

Bingo. I think that's what a lot of the complaints are about - confronting them with an unpleasant reality that those around them are suffering and may need help. Far too many people would rather it were kept out of sight and out of mind. They'd rather not hear it, and would just say a half-hearted "ganbare kudasai", with no real care at all for the people around them.

The isolation, the cold hearts and barriers between people, and the opprobrium and even scorn poured on people who express these cries for help by people like Disillusioned are what cause the despair that makes it all the more likely that someone will just end their life when they could have been helped.

As one of the twitter posts said, "this is reality", and people have to deal with it. Seeing one of those posters may make you feel a bit sombre, but consider how the people expressing those thoughts themselves feel, and consider yourself lucky. And if you hear someone saying things like this, don't turn a cold shoulder; listen to them, and talk to them.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

What an idea!!! To put daily complains on poster to prevent suicide. I'm sorry but this is so unprofessional. People killing them self cause they are rejected from community, not cause they argue with wife or can not find job. I already see what kind of amateurs promoted this idea. Waste of money.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

From the description, this sounds more like suicide-encouragement posters than prevention... Strange.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I believe, like others have said , these posters have caused complaints because they are a slap in the face, something that wrenches your attention. No fluff, idols or silly mascot. People don't want the mirror of realityheld in front of their face, that's why everything is flowered up. Wake up, this isn't Disneyland....... real people are suffering, does that make you uncomfortable, well good, deal with it.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

If the intent of the posters was to be thought-provoking and stir discussion, then they are a success. Anodyne cutesy messages to "cheer up and ganbaru" are useless on someone who needs help with their depression or that of someone close to them. That kind of thing just sounds patronizing and insincere.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

We must remember that we are human beings and not cyborgs.

This particular society with its 'Beautiful Japanese Culture' must definitely remember that humans are humans and not cyborgs. Japanese relatives of mine spend a lot of time wondering what the neighbors would think if the relatives did X or Y instead of Z and they always come to the conclusion to do Z because that is 'what is expected of us' even though they hate doing it. And, through discussion, most of the neighbors hate doing Z, too. But, it is 'what is expected.' They are self-censoring their lives because of what they Think the neighbors will Think. Cyborgs indeed.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Heaven forbid they are faced with the truth, and not just an AKB girl in lingerie as a 'gatekeeper'. Suicide is NOT a positive thing, and yes people who try and/or succeed in doing so are of COURSE going to be complaining. Why should it contain positive messages when the rate is so astoundingly high and people do little or nothing about it?

This is aimed at awareness, and clearly it's working, whether the people like it or not.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

There was time that I wished someone would kill me or erase me because I wanted to be gone but too afraid to commit suicide by myself. I had been depressed for a few years and in times like that it's good to know that others also feel same way and you are not alone suffering. I understand those healthy people don't want to see negative messages on the daily basis but those posters don't have to be all happy and fun all the time. It is OK to put light on dark side of society once in a while.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Government can start building free sport centers and libraries in every square of the territory. A place where young people can enjoy free time. They can contract smiling psycologists overseas, since they are much more motivated than the busy and serious national doctors.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@borscht

I think the example you gave is not really "cyborgs". It is Japanese (perhaps East Asian) culture not to disturb "Wa" (harmony) of people. They put harmony before individuals and calling them just cyborgs is lack of understanding of culture. I agree some times it can be stressful though.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

gas07lisa: "They put harmony before individuals and calling them just cyborgs is lack of understanding of culture."

Putting 'harmony before individuals' while claiming to respect others can be, as very, very common of late in Japan, a contradiction. How many times do you read about neighbours coming forward AFTER someone has been killed and saying they heard screams or saw extremely skinny and starved kids, but they never said a word until the meat wagon rolled in? If someone is doing something terrible around you, addressing it is not disturbing this superstitious idea of 'wa', it's trying to preserve some semblance of law and order, which you might call 'wa' if you wanted to apply an idea to actual practice. Until then, they are indeed just cyborgs. I still remember learning about 'wa' when I came here because the idiot in the apartment above me would turn on an electric guitar at full blast at 3:00 a.m. every night. I wanted to call the police, but the superintendent said to me, "Many people feel the same way about him, but you cannot disturb the 'wa'". Everyone was more intent to bury their heads and try and forget the fact that HE was disturbing the wa of all his neighbours.

Disturbing the 'wa' in this day and age sounds more like "shaking the boat" or "sticking out". These posters prove a point -- that there are a lot of people who need help NOW -- not after their dead or when the media circus comes in to hear about how helping them or trying to reach them might disturb the wa. The idea that the signs are disturbing those who would rather ignore the problem is a statement on their effectiveness, and they should stay.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Killing yourself is an act of extreme bravery.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

When your belief system is one that hints that maybe your next life will be a better one it's hard to get people out of that mindset. I've had this discussion with my ex, and also a Buddhist Chinese friend and they seem to share this 'next life' belief... I'm not laughing at them, I respect them way too much for that, I just think that maybe this is at the root of the suicide problem? Or am I talking absolute rubbish?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Smithinjapan

I think those example you gave, trouble with neighbors, are not really about protecting "wa" though. Starved kids on the news shows indifference. It's not about disturbing "wa". About your experience, he was an idiot to play guitar in 3 a.m. and your superintendent didn't do his/ her job. Superintendent has responsibility to do something about it, sorry yours didn't. I have many foreign friends in Japan who were warned by apartment owner for having parties late at night and disturbing other residents.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Killing yourself is an act of extreme bravery.

Totally agree.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

It's foolish to put them up near the platforms. It's easy to jump from there after reading them.

Lol! Is that comment unintentionally funny?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Killing yourself is an act of extreme bravery.

It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes it is better to live.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ReformedBasher - it's always better to live.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There is no way of sugar coating suicide, so of course these posters were going to be depressing. It has done its job, to get people thinking and talking about suicide. If it has stirred some feelings in people, then GOOD.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posters like that are akin to putting a big JUMP! poster beside a person standing on a ledge.

What about more emotive posters of a person with a problem going to seek counseling help with information of where to go, who to call, assurances of privacy and of how normal it is to seek help.

These posters need to be removed!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@佐藤2013

What a terrible shame that such an insightful Japanese person, who really CAN see the core issue here, is locked away from a society that clearly needs someone like him or her.

Your post clearly illustrates that your self-value is far higher than you give yourself credit for. Your English is excellent too, so my advice to you would be to get away overseas!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The number of Japanese who committed suicide is most numerous in the world. One of my friends also committed suicide. She was her 30's. She had a younger brother with intellectual disability and she also was mental patient of depression. When people considers that to live is more painful than to die, they would want to kill themselves. These posters are just reflecting the darkness of negative thoughts so they are all meaningless for people who wants to die.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The story does not say what the point of the posters is. Is there help available to people who may feel things getting worse for them, and do the posters make any reference to that help?

I realize the "goal" is to prevent suicides, but I don't see how these quotes alone are going to help in that effort.

@佐藤2013

My thoughts and prayers are with you. My only advice: Please consider the healing power of nature. Find a hiking club or 自然保護協会 and volunteer to do something to help restore our troubled world. Please give it a chance.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Making the kinds of things that make people feel desperate and alone into a more public issue can help draw people out of their shells and appreciate that they are not alone at all, that others also feel the same kinds of things and feel as badly.

I wonder if there is a statistically relevant factor to be drawn by the fact that people are calling to complain about the posters? Like they may be harboring an internalized sense of negativity?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Killing yourself is an act of extreme bravery."

It can be, but it's not when you're running from your problems.

Mike: "Posters like that are akin to putting a big JUMP! poster beside a person standing on a ledge."

Funny you should mention that, I guess, but in Osaka on one of the subway lines there was an ad with the word "JUMP!" in huge letters. I believe it was intended to mean "take the initiative", and I forget what the ad was for and it has since been removed, but I remember thinking how poorly placed it was. These messages my not be in the most ideal location, but the point is to catch attention. The complaint is just that the 'messages are not positive', like there should be a Hello Kitty or AKB in bikinis instead of reality. Suicide isn't cute, or positive.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

First, Suicide awareness only one month in a year? Second, correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't a Help Line phone number be more effective? I'm sure everyone one knows the problem, I believe people are looking for a solution. Really now, reminding people of their problems on the platform of a train/subway station without any advice? It's like they're saying we know your problemsn. Turn around and there's the solution.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Too much thinking negative its the result,just relax,ask help from others

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think for people not contemplating suicide these posters are a good way to catch their attention and bring up the issue. I mean if it's causing controversy, hopefully it leads to not only discussions of if these posters are good or bad but also to the core issue of how to prevent suicides and help those who are contemplating it.

But for those who are suicidal already, I fear these posters might be a trigger, particularly in a train station. Mentally healthy individuals and those who are considering suicide will take in these posters differently, whereas for the first group it might be discussion for the latter it might be that final push to end their lives.

So it depends on which audience and what objective the city was aiming for. If their target was to generate discussion among society and bring the issue up, it can be considered successful, but if their target is those who ARE suicidal in hopes of preventing them from taking their life I don't think this is a particularly good way to go about it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Don't throw yourself onto the track folks it'll delay the trains....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How about posters saying, "The man with no shoes felt sorry for himself until he saw the man with no feet." or "If you are unhappy at your job, find another one. It's better to live on less money than to be unhappy all the time." or "Depressed? Try doing a little volunteer work. It'll lift your spirits and those you help!"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the posters, should try to convey a positive uplifting message, for example, things that will help you feel happy throughout the day, with brighter positive colors, then underneath maybe it says something like, If you want help with everyday issues, and are in need of emotional support please contact this number as we will support and try our best to make you feel better thank you have a nice day :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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