The Recovery Place Expresses Concern: How Do You Measure Stoicism and Stress on the Richter scale?
The Recovery Place is concerned about the flip side of the Japanese strength: being unable to overtly express feelings of stress and anxiety during times of natural or manmade calamity.
Fall seven times and stand up eight is the literal translation for the famous Japanese proverb Nanakorobi yaoki. When life knocks you down, get back up. In the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, this proverb resounds across the country. While cohesiveness of the Japanese community and resilience of spirit has long been documented historically (The Japan Project), The Recovery Place is concerned about the flip side of this strength: being unable to overtly express feelings of stress and anxiety during times of natural or man made calamity may result in using other, more unhealthy, means as a crutch. Is the country of Japan in a major alcohol and drug addiction scare? Are those in other countries directly affected by the loss of loved ones in the earthquake and tsunami also on the verge of alcohol and drug addiction?
Casualty counts and radiation counts are rising. Yet the Japanese line up patiently for food and water in the Sendai region of Japan. There is no looting. Anger is rarely seen and tears are apologized for when caught on camera. This is in huge contrast to television footage from natural disasters in other parts of the world.
Culturally Japanese don’t tend to share anxiety or worry outside the family—they may not even express emotions freely at home. In Japan alcohol is often used as a way to speak frankly or more openly with friends and coworkers, later blaming the alcohol on what is said or done.
Consumption of alcohol and the use of drugs are on the rise in Japan. Much of this has been attributed to the rising stress of modern life and traditional negative societal view on mental health issues, including addiction and alcoholism. Keeping the figurative dirty laundry out of sight is more important here than in many cultures.
According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) study nearly 2.5% of all Japanese citizens over age 15 have an alcohol problem. How will the physical, emotional and fiscal impact of the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear reactor failures affect this statistic?
Over 2600 Japanese Red Cross psychiatric nurses have been deployed to the earthquake and tsunami ravaged areas of northern Japan. Their role is viewed as crucial according to Paul Conneally, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Psychological services are necessary immediately and in the foreseeable future in order to help survivors deal with a painful and poignant list of horrendous loss. But will all Japanese avail themselves of these services?
The strong overt face and work ethic of the Japanese makes them able to overcome the destruction of last week’s earthquake and tsunami. But the underlying effects of emotional trauma and pain long-term are of great concern to The Recovery Place and other health officials.
The emotional stress of the rescue and recovery efforts in Japan hits in areas remote from Japan, too. Fear of being personally exposed to radiation isn’t an issue, but stress is present in regard to friends and loved ones working and living in Japan, or temporarily there for disaster and relief efforts. The scenarios for stress are endless, and they need to be taken seriously.
The Recovery Place has long recognized that an international way of coping over centuries has been through the use of drugs and alcohol. They strongly support the Japanese Red Cross’ immediate efforts to provide psychological counseling. The deep connection between physical and emotional trauma and addiction is an international statistic, not just an American one.
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