/ 24. January 2011 04:24
[The following reflection was written by Fr. Masaki Imada, O.S.A., a friar in Japan]
One of the phenomena that has received increasing media attention in Japan is that since 1998 more than 30,000 people have committed suicide every single year in the country. Of the suicides whose principal cause has been more or less identified, they say the most common is depression. According to a recent survey, the incidence of suicide in Japan is 25.2 to every 100,000 people, which is over twice as many as in the United States. What is more, it is estimated that there are about 10 times as many non-fatal attempted suicides every year. Judging by this and considering a vast number of people who are affected by the loss of a loved one or friend, it is obvious that the reality is indeed even broader and more far-reaching than the actual numbers seem to indicate.
When I was stationed in Fukuoka, I answered many phone calls from people suffering from one type of psychological or mental disorder or another. These calls were often from one and the same person but from several others as well. Although they might not be having thoughts of suicide, I would think that, technically, they are at risk, and that these people are really the tip of the iceberg. They say that Japan is a very stressful society. But, over and beyond this, it seems to indicate that, deep down, there is some kind of spiritual homelessness that is shared by a large percentage of the population resulting from, among other things, rapid changes in society including the erosion of traditional values and the breakdown of local communities/neighborhoods that used to serve as life-sustaining, stabilizing factors. This is where we, as Augustinians, can play a more active role as partners with all people of good will with different religious backgrounds or no backgrounds. Yes, there are services like Lifeline or Helpline, something like CONTACT USA available, but I think it is important not just to refer people who turn to us to professionals but to do what we can right where we are even if we are not exactly professionally trained and to become part of a network to help support people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Providing emotional support may not be our specialty, but oftentimes it is an important step to further ministries.