Paging Dr. Szasz: Japan Succumbs to Infectious Wave of Mental Illness


And they've caught it from the capitalist West. The Japanese Mental Health Institute, a government agency, fingers merit pay and promotion, at odds with the traditional Japanese seniority system, for causing growing stress and mental illness and also leading to shrinking population growth. The individualization caused by adopting more American and British style work environments is also blamed by the Mental Health Institute for causing "mental turmoil"–"When people worked in teams they were happier."

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  1. “When people worked in teams they were happier.”

    In my experience, 4 out of 5 members of a team ought to be happy as the remaining one is the person who is doing all the work.

  2. MK-True enough, but people do seem to be happier when operating as part of a herd.

  3. Except for old curmudgeons.

  4. So at least now I have an excuse for my mental illness…

  5. Garanteed security and team work. Antidote for mental illness but cancer to society.

  6. and when i dream…

  7. Brian, I think Szasz already knew. Oh right…

  8. it’s odd how statements of such stupidity get such a bad press (bad as in stupid). for the life of me i can’t work out why the mainstream press haven’t begun to even *suspect* psychiatry is nonsense (although perhaps the british tabloids do, on occasion, “tell it like it is”), despite the situation becoming more and more absurd by the year/month/week/day — e.g. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)!!
    well, perhaps if i think about it i can, but i try not to. what is going on?!

  9. cherokee-
    For most of our evolutionary history, we probably relied on working in groups as a means of survival. Perhaps natural selction created a strong preference for group work in many people. Like other primates, man is a social animal. Just because this may not coincide with the libertarian perspective doesn’t mean it can be dismissed as mere “psychiatry.” Of course culture counts for a lot too, but you seem to dismiss that as well.

    On the other hand, another Hit and Run post informs us that “those who are highly intelligent may be more aloof and independent.” If so, perhaps the designer babies of the future will fit better into the US-UK work model.

  10. Cherokee, I think your blanket dismissal of psychiatry might be more convincing if you hadn’t picked one of the few disorders with some actual science behind it (SAD). You couldn’t have hit iatrogenic dissociative disorders, or recovered memories?

  11. what about that new road rage syndrome? it must be some sort of disease, right?

  12. well, actually —
    i suppose i was trying to say that statements such as “the emphasis on individual performance was driving Japanese workers ? particularly those in their thirties ? to mental turmoil.” are no justification for coercive psychiatry, whether they point to some phenomenon (perhaps cultural) or not.

    Ian —
    which “actual science” are you referring to? whether i feel happier when it isn’t raining all the time *could* be explained by science, but using that “actual science” as an excuse to absolve my responsibility seems very wrong to me. isn’t all psychiatric disease iatrogenic, by definition?

  13. So it doesn’t matter if people are happy, so long as they are productive?

    And who is advocating “coercive psychiatry?” I didn’t see any policy recomendations. But if people really do prefer working in groups etc., maybe that should be a consideration.

  14. well, actually —

    matter to whom? what other people i don’t know do voluntarily doesn’t generally matter to me.

    i expect the Japanese govt. advocates coercive psychiatry, and at no point recommends this policy be changed, despite the spokesman being relatively polite.

    i’m all for people working in groups if they want to. i suppose if you accept that govt. ought to tell people what to do elsewhere, then they may as well try and stop people being mentally ill.

  15. So it doesn’t matter if people are happy, so long as they are productive?

    I think the problem is that people aren’t deciding on happy vs. productivity for themselves, that some group of government technocrats wants to create the perfect balance of productivity and happy that we must all be forced to live under.

    If you value free time and lack of stress more than material wealth, then so be it. If you value the things that material wealth can bring you and want to work hard for it, so be it. But don’t try to tell me there is some perfect balance for everyone the government should enforce on people.

  16. I guess I just don’t believe that there is a pure economic arangement that exists all on it’s happy own free from government “interference.” At one time people chose to send their kids off to factories, work 12 hour days, and forgo health and safety protection. Now that government has restricted these things, the norms have shifted.

    Of course, the Japaneese would be foolish to strangle their economy to make people feel better, but I think that political action may be necesarry to ensure that people actually get what they want out of the economic system.

  17. Sounds like a specious analysis to me. How did they arrive at this conclusion? And what of the thousands of Japanese who have complained they felt stifled in a system that frowned on individuality? And how many men did the interview compared to women?

  18. This article does relate to coercive psychiatry. Dr.’s justify locking up patients by saying mental illness is a chemical imbalance caused by genetic differences. While genetic differences can be a factor, this article shows that genetics and chemicals aren’t the whole story. If the work environment can cause mental illness, like this article says, than a patient can get better with a new job instead of drugs. Suddenly, locking up schizophrenics isn’t as justifiable when the symptoms aren’t that inevitable.

  19. Ian,

    Could you please link to the research article on SAD that you’re referring to?

  20. I don’t know about succumbing to mental illness but Japan succumbed to the cute side of the Force a long long time ago. Once a culture that specialized in an exquisitely refined and subtle sense of beauty and grace gave way at some point in the 80’s (perhaps before) to a nation wide cult of the cute, with worship of things like “Hello Kitty” and hand-held and computerized animated creatures that lay eggs, dribble, and shoot other things out of their butts. It’s a nation where 35 year old women try to dress like little girls, wear pig tails, and screech “kawaaiiii” (cute!!!) at anything with the ability to make a cute face. No wonder Japan is depressed.

  21. when it comes to life, i guess it comes down to a simple choice, get busy living or get busy dying.

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