Record high number of work-related mental illnesses reported in 2011


The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare has announced that a record high number of work-related mental illnesses were recorded in 2011.

According to the ministry, 325 people were recognized as suffering from mental disorders as a result of their work, Sankei Shimbun reported. As causes, the ministry cited excessive overtime, stress and depression following the March 11 disaster.

In total, the number of people who applied for compensation for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was 1,272 people, an increase of 91 over 2010, the ministry said. The number of suicides and suicide attempts attributed to work-related issues was 66, the ministry said.

A ministry spokesman was quoted as saying that when companies downsize, remaining employees are faced with a lot more work, and their stress builds up with no outlet, Sankei reported.

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Hardly surprising. There is so much bad news in Japan that I reckon this is the tip of the iceberg.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Most stress comes from people. You can work almost all your waking hours if you are working with people you get along with on something that you want to do.

In my experience in large Japanese companies, there's a lot of backbiting going on behind the scenes and people are not usually promoted on ability, but by length of service or connections.

I was standing in line waiting for an international license. Sitting by the window was the office manager. The girls at the counter were running around, feverishly searching through stacks of papers, serving customers and very busy. The guy at the window was doing absolutely nothing. Just staring blankly in front of him.

When my turn came, I asked the girl (in a loud enough voice for the guy at the window to hear) if he was alright because he hadn't moved for twenty minutes. "Does he work here, or is here just waiting for someone?" I asked, pointedly. "Oh, he's the office manager," replied the girl with a giggle in her eyes.

The next time I went there, a few months later, the area by the window was partitioned off. There were frosted glass windows on it, so that you couldn't see what the person inside was doing.

I wonder why.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

It always makes me smile when Japanese who have never gone further than 4 days in Hawaii in their lives tell me that Japan has one of the most high quality lifestyles in the world.

I agree with all of the above. I think there is somewhat of a crackdown on paid overtime, but I think people are still staying for free, working long hours and "appearing" to be busy because they are all so sh1t-scared of losing their jobs. It must be incredibly stressful. At least in days gone by there was no uncertainty of ever being unemployed. These days it seems you have all the stress of the past AND insecurity for the future. Tough times.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

All fine and dandy to report it and even go so far as to say how troubling it is, but what efforts are being made to combat it aside from getting young girls in rock groups to be 'gatekeepers'? Japan needs to do something about addressing mental health -- NOW!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Japanese workers overwork yet the economy isn't growing, many companies are failing. They don't understand the working inefficiently won't get you any results...

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Japan has got to be one of the worst countries to work for. Long hours. Little chance of escape. Little freedom. It's a wonder a lot more workers don't snap.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

While I'm sure last year's catastrophy must have deeply perturbed many people and that work related illnesses resulted from this, I cannot really agree with the "long hours" theory. Having worked in Japanese offices, I noticed just how little work was done during the daytime then suddenly, around 5pm, everyone became extremely "busy". I often wondered why?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

No doubt there are issue - long hours, nasty, nasty behaviour by coworkers, laziness, unable to fire incompetent people... But I have to ask, how much of this is caused by having a spoiled upbringing and many not being able to deal with simply having a job and dealing with people on a daily basis?

I look at many of my uni students and they clearly, clearly lack social skills, let alone common sense. How on earth are they going to survive in the work force here? I don't think we can blame the companies so much as blame the society the Japanese have created for themselves. Long work hours but very little accomplished. Why? Because no one has the balls to clock out early. Work with a bully? Suffer under them instead of taking them to task in front of everyone for their behaviour - they don't bully just one person, they bully everyone because they know they can get away with it. Pressure? From where? The pressure THEY created. Why companies allow them to stay so late is beyond me. It costs them money in terms of power, overtime pay (for those that pay)... The thing is, why the go abroad to work, many behave the same.

John, the bullying here is pathetic. Get rid of the whole sempai/kohai system. Get rid of the eternal respect for those older. I point out to my students that just because someone is older doesn't mean they deserve respect - more so if they aren't good at the job/sport and don't do much. They understand this but continue the life of sheeple.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

In my experience, companies are cutting back on long hours. In the past, I worked overtime and didn't need permission to do so.These days, I need permission from the boss as to why I need to work the extra hours. Many of my friends tell me similar things about their companies. I'm not sure that the image of trapped office drones is an accurate one. You could argue that the assault on terms of employment and job stability is a far greater source of stress. The issue for me is the taboo about mental illness and a reluctance to seek help - particularly among men.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I know of several Japanese and foreigners working for Japanese companies and they work from 8am to 11pm, Monday through Saturday. On many weeks, the boss calls them on Sunday to work. How can people have time to spend with friends, family or even rest? If the boss does not call on Sunday then a co-worker normally calls to persuade them to come in. "it's their duty," they usually say. This has to be illegal. However, has anyone ever read a Japanese work contract? Basically the company owns you once you sign. Imagine working seven days a week and then having to commute 2-hours on a crowded train. No wonder people in Japan are committing suicide or suffering from PTSD.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

tip of the iceberg... most are too afraid or ashamed to seek help.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

johninnaha - great story! And I bet those girls have been dining off that experience ever since ("Did I ever tell you about the time this foreign guy came in..."). You voiced what they had all been thinking, no doubt.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

John, I blame the education system AND the parents. The education is a mess because parents allow it to be a mess. They never voice and opinion with their families either for the most part. Little robot kids with their handheld games and keitais. Who buys them? Their parents. Why? Easier to deal with their busy game playing kids than actually speaking to them.

Parents teacher them never to fight back. Problem at school? Call in mom and she'll sort it out. Teachers have zero power now because of monster parents.

The education system in a joke. Everyone knows it, the mumbusho knows it, the parents know it... Which is why there are jukus. Do the parents actually take a stand? Nope. Baaaaaaa!

I 100% agree. Fight back and get rid of that stress. Yep, you upset people in the process but stress free and calling people on their behaviour makes my life much, much easier.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

And the government does not care...moving along

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ Charles M Burns. I am glad you can cope with your workload. My own experience leads me to believe that stress and depression can strike anyone. You dont know you are depressed and stressed until after it strikes you and you seek medical advice. After your months on pills , you realise how stressed you were. It is not just workload that causes this, factors like your position in the hierarchy, bad management, and the safety of your working environment all have a part to play. I have empathy with those who have difficulty coping. There but for the grace of God go I.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

tmarie - I think the blame in large part lies in the Japanese "education" system.

From around Junior High School, right up to graduation of university, students sit there and shut up. They never voice an opinion, never discuss, hell, they don't even write an essay. Usually their "graduation thesis" is a kind of meaningless ritual. Their tutor gives them a template and they fill in a few gaps.

They are "taught" to accept and NEVER to fight back.

That's why, I'm sure, they accept the do-less boss, the sexual innuendos from the office manager and the groping on the trains. They need to learn that these creeps are spineless weeds, cowards.

Laughing out loud at a groper is a good way to handle him, by the way. I did this once. A guy was "dry-humping" a girl on a train. I burst out laughing and asked him if he was in heat.

His face went bright red and he scrambled for the back of the train compartment.

I'm convinced that the key to stress is to fight back!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

tmarie - You are completely right. It is not just the education system, but the people who support it. And, as you say, communication is sadly absent at home. It's much easier to switch on the TV or let them play with their handheld games. And the kids find it much easier to text someone on a keitai than actually SPEAK to them.

And then, suddenly, when little Keiko-chan gets pregnant at 17, they are so ashamed and shocked.

But, I don't think this lack of communication is a totally new thing in Japan. There are so many formulas and there is so much ritual patter that has about as much meaning as bird twitter and that takes the place of real communication.

And with no channel to let the bottled up feelings out, it's not surprised they suffer from stress!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I've seen some easily stressed by what I would consider a normal workload.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I don't think it is either. Thing is, before you could go home and beat your wife and kids. These days the world is watching and keeping track so it is happening less often - though still far too often!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare has announced that a record high number of work-related mental illnesses were recorded in 2011.

If I'm not mistaken, a mojority of these are the JKeystones that you read about here. DUI's, groping, taking upskirt pictures, etc...Now that's some work related mental illness, if you ask me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

turning up the heat in the cool-biz company store...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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